One of my favorite things to ‘report’ on is the discovery of new species. Seems like the news is always full of stories about species that are disappearing, but they somehow neglect to share with us new species that have been discovered. My personal thoughts is there is an ebb and flow in wild life. I have seen that here at my own home. Some years there are squirrels running rampant for instance and other years, we don’t see any. But I digress…
So, up to four new species of shrews have been found in Indonesia. Now, these little guys aren’t the cutest in the land…unless you like critters with big ears and long noses (the better to hear and sniff you with my dear), but they are an important part of our environment!
Yes, they do resemble the mice that I recently was so upset about, but guess what…they are not part of the rodent family (that’s what I learned new today). They are very closely related to moles though! They are found world-wide, except there aren’t any native shrews in New Guinea, Australia, or New Zealand.
In general, shrews are terrestrial creatures that forage for seeds, insects, nuts, worms and a variety of other foods in leaf litter and dense vegetation, but some specialize in climbing trees, living underground, living under snow or even hunting in water. They have small eyes, and generally poor vision, but have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are very active animals, with voracious appetites and unusually high metabolic rates. Shrews must eat 80-90 % of their own body weight in food daily.
Shrews are very territorial and only come together to mate. Shrews can have up to 10 litters a year! They have a gestation period of 17-32 days. No wonder they are everywhere!
They only have one set of teeth in their life time which don’t grow like rodents, but can be worn down. This can be very bad for an ‘old shrew’ since there aren’t any false teeth at the local shrew store for them to pick up.
Two types of shrews use echolocation and some shrews are venomous! The venom is conducted not through fangs but through grooves in their teeth. But get this…”one chemical extracted from shrew venom may be potentially useful in the treatment of blood pressure while another compound may be useful in the treatment of some neuromuscular diseases and migraines. The saliva of the Northern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda) contains the peptide soricidin and has accordingly been studied for use in treating ovarian cancer.”
And one last cool fact to leave you with. I am not sure how the shrew got it’s name, but when you look at shrew…think shrewd! Shrewd is defined as astute, sharp, keen, piercing! Well get this. The shrew’s brain makes up 10% of it’s body mass! This is the highest brain to body mass ration of any animal (including humans!)
So if you want to learn more about the shrew, check out these links!
Natural History article
National Geographic (this link has more pictures of the new species found in Indonesia)