Facts About the Elephant Shrew
- The Smithsonian National Zoological Park website states that scientists originally classified the elephant shrew as a shrew in the Insectivore order, but then changed this and placed them with animals like rabbits. However, the elephant shrew finally received its own genus when biologists linked the animal to creatures like the aardvark, rock hyrax, the hedgehog-like tenrec and even the elephant. The theory is that animals of this nature evolved in Africa 100 million years ago. The animals that people usually associate with Africa, such as lions and giraffes, migrated there some 75 million years later.
- A main feature of the elephant shrew is the nose, which the animal uses to root around on the ground for food and to trace scents left by others of its kind. The head is long and so are the legs. The animal has a hunchbacked appearance. Elephant shrews have scent glands that they use to mark their paths and territories, leaving a musky smell that other elephant shrews find and decipher.
- One type of elephant shrew, the checkered elephant shrew, is as long as a foot and weighs up to 1.5 lbs. Other elephant shrews are smaller, weighing between just one ounce and seven ounces. Elephant shrews are omnivores, eating insects such as termites, ants and beetles, as well as fruits, tubers and plant roots. The smaller elephant shrews forage for food at dusk and at dawn, but the giant elephant shrews stay active throughout the daylight hours.
- Monogamy is a trait rare among mammals, but the elephant shrew practices it, mating with one partner for life. However, the marriage may endure because the pair spends very little time with each other. Pairs of elephant shrews will share the same territory and defend it against other animals and other elephant shrews, but the male stays with the female only to breed, having no hand in raising the young.
- The elephant shrew's predators include snakes and various raptors. People also capture and eat elephant shrews. The biggest threat these creatures face is the fragmentation of their habitat, as human settlements, agricultural fields and deforestation can make it difficult for the elephant shrew to find a mate or enough of a continuous area in which to hunt for food.