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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Elephant Shrew Facts You'll Never Forget

Elephant shrew facts about the tiny mammal related to elephants.

What is a shrew? When you look for shrew meaning online, you will learn that this term is used to describe small mouse-like mammals who have a long snout and pointed ears. Elephant shrews (Macroscelidea) are small mammals mostly found in the African mountains, deserts, and dense forests. At present, there are approximately 20 species of elephant shrews recorded. The skin patterns and colors of the elephant shrew are different according to its species. The elephant shrews are most related to elephants as they have a flexible snout which moves voluntarily in any direction. Elephant shrews have a lifespan of maximum four years and prefer living in monogamous pairs only for reproduction. They are not friendly or good family pets. They are fast runners and mark their territory with the help of their scent glands.

Short eared elephant shrews (Macroscelidea) can survive up to two years in the wild, while in captivity they can survive for up to four years. In order to stay safe from predators, they ensure that their trails are free from debris which allows them to run away quickly. Some of the most prominent predators for eared elephant shrews are snakes, birds of prey, and several other animals. After enjoying the elephant shrew facts, do check out our articles on snowshoe hare and brown hare.  

Elephant Shrew Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an elephant shrew?

Even though the physical characteristics of an elephant shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus) are similar to that of a rat or opossum, they are not labeled as rodents. They are sengis which are more related to elephants after their evolution. The elephant shrew can be easily mistaken for a rat in the first instance. The fur of the elephant shrews is reddish-brown—brownish-red or grey in color. The short-snouted elephant shrews also have a distinct marking around their eyes which looks like a ring. The tail of the elephant shrews is scaly, and they have a long snout. The elephant shrews have long legs which look too big for their short body. The long legs help the them to jump like rabbits, and hence they are also known as jumping shrews. They have a stark resemblance to rodents like rats and opossums.

What class of animal does an elephant shrew belong to?

The elephant shrew is a mammal native to the African continent. There are approximately 20 species of the elephant shrew like water shrew, golden rumped elephant shrew, Somali sengis, and checkered elephant shrew. These mammals are short-lived and mostly rely on ants, termites, other insects and worms for feeding. They have traits similar to that of an anteater and a rabbit.

How many elephant shrews are there in the world?

Elephant shrews are not rare to find, they can be found in Africa. Though some species of the elephant shrew are listed as endangered, others are not extinct. The main reason for the loss of their population is habitat fragmentation and reduced sexual reproduction.

Where does an elephant shrew live?

The elephant shrew originated from the African continent in the regions of Namibia, Botswana, and multiple locations in Southern Africa. Different species of elephant shrews are found in different locations in habitats that are fit for their survival. Species of elephant shrews can be also found in Central and East Africa, Tanzania.

What is an elephant shrew's habitat?

The elephant shrew can survive in multiple habitats like the driest of deserts in Africa and dense forests. Elephant shrews can be found in any habitat ranging from grass plains, savannas, dense forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and arid and semi-arid regions in Africa. Other species of elephant shrews or sengis are mostly found in Southern Africa. The Eurasian shrew or the pygmy white-toothed elephant shrew are found in Eurasia and North Africa, respectively.

Who do elephant shrews live with?

Elephant shrews live in monogamous pairs until they reproduce. After reproduction, the male and the female elephant shrews prefer living their solitary lives. During pregnancy the females burrow a hole in the ground and leave the offsprings in the hole until they develop a yolk sac.

How long does an elephant shrew live?

The elephant shrews are short-lived insectivores. They only live for about two to four years, mostly in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Elephant shrews reproduce after they reach the age of sexual maturity. After copulation, the female elephant shrew burrows a hole in the ground for incubation. The gestation period in elephant shrews lasts 40-60 days, depending on the species. The male elephant shrews have a very little part to play in determining the litter size of this species.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of elephant shrews is not listed as extinct but some of the species of the sengis are considered endangered, like the golden rumped elephant shrew. The main threats which can lessen the population of elephant shrews is habitat fragmentation. Elephant shrews living in fragmented forest areas do not find potential mates for mating, which can lead to a decrease in their numbers.

Elephant Shrew Fun Facts

What do elephant shrews look like?

Elephant shrews might looks like rats at first instance but they do have some distinct features. They have an extremely long nose which resembles the trunk of an elephant. Along with it, elephant shrew has a long-pointed head, long legs, and prominent ears. Their long legs allow them to move around in a hopping fashion.

Elephant shrews prefer to live near the forest floor to feast on ants, termites, and other insects.

How cute are they?

Elephant shrews aren't that cute as they resemble a rodent and do not have thick fur. The fur of the elephant shrew is not smooth to touch. Also, they are not recommended to be kept as family pets. The elephant shrews are short mammals that aren’t tall or even too long. They almost look like rats and have burrowing habits like rabbits. The elephant shrews are small in size and could survive in any type of habitat from deserts to forests. The shrew animals are territorial in nature and usually hunt on the ground. The elephant shrews are active during the day and hence are called diurnal animals.

How do they communicate?

Elephant shrews communicate through scent glands to mark their territory as well as use squeaks and squeals. If handled incorrectly, the elephant shrew will get anxious and shriek at its owner in a loud tone. Elephant shrews bang their feet on the ground when it is confronted with danger. The offspring also make little noises while being nursed by the mother elephant shrew. The elephant shrews emit a highly vocalized shriek when handled roughly by humans. Apart from foot drumming and shrieking, the elephant shrews are very protective about their territory and would get into a fight and be noisy with others of their own tribe to protect their territory.

How big is an elephant shrew?

An elephant shrew is similar to the size of a rodent. Some species of the elephant shrew could have a huge body. The round-eared elephant shrew is approximately 10 cm long, while the other species of the elephant shrew-like the golden rumped elephant shrew, is around 11 in long and weighs around 1.20 lb. There are in total 19-20 living species of the elephant shrew, among which some are endangered like the golden rumped elephant shrew. The water shrew is 3.5 in long and weighs between 0.03-0.04 lb. All the species of elephant shrews, commonly known as jumping shrews or sengi, belong to the family Macroscelididae and order Macroscelidea.

How fast can an elephant shrew run?

The elephant shrew is a fast runner and runs at a speed of 18 miles per hour. They also can jump like rabbits to catch their prey because they have long hind legs.

How much does an elephant shrew weigh?

The weight of an elephant shrews depends on the type of its species. The elephant shrews weigh ranges from 0.005-1.54 lb. The common Eurasian shrew weighs up to 0.03 lb which is the average weight of most elephant shrew species. The bodyweight of the shrew animal also depends on its type. For example, the short-eared elephant shrews have a bodyweight of 0.05-0.10 lb and are the smallest species of elephant shrews. The Macroscelides proboscideus (short-eared elephant shrew mammal) can be found in South Africa and burrow in the ground.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male and the female elephant shrews do not have individual names. They are only segregated based on their sexes and do not have a specific name.

What would you call a baby elephant shrew?

Baby elephant shrews do not have a particular name. They are only called baby sengis or baby elephant shrews.

What do they eat?

An elephant shrew is commonly known as a jumping shrew or Somali sengi. They originated from Africa and mostly depended on different insects for feeding. They are insectivores and eat insects like spiders, centipedes, millipedes, worms, earthworms, and ants. The feeding habits of an elephant shrew are similar to that of an anteater as it uses its flexible snout to catch its prey and uses its tongue to pick up leftover pieces which are dropped to the ground while eating. The short eared elephant shrew eats ants and termites as they are primarily terrestrial and live and hunt on the ground. Eating a bigger prey is a sloppy task for an elephant shrew and it smartly does not leave any debris behind for the predator to attack it. The elephant shrew can also depend on plant material like mature leaves, shoots, tenders, fruits, and seeds falling on the ground after being ripe.

Are they friendly?

No, elephant shrews are not friendly towards strangers. If mishandled, they might shriek and express their disappointment. They do not make good pets and are accustomed to a terrestrial environment where they can prey, mate, and give birth. Elephant shrews can almost be mistaken for rats, and they are fast runners, which can cause a mess in the household.

Would they make a good pet?

No elephant shrews won't make a good pet as they have little sharp teeth, which can cause wounds and bleeding. The bite of an elephant shrew is not hazardous for humans, but the teeth are so sharp that they could pierce through the skin easily. Elephant shrews, plus short eared elephant shrews, have a short lifespan and should be left out in the wild. They are most active during the daytime and would not behave in a friendly manner towards strangers. If handled in the wrong manner, elephant shrews may bite the person, which does not make them a good pet.

Did you know...

The female elephant shrews undergo menstruation just like human females. The menstruation cycles in female mammals are called estrous cycles, which begin after sexual maturity and growth in sexual hormones. The estrous cycles in elephant shrews can last their whole lifespan, and the duration of an estrous cycle in sengis is 8-12 days. The elephant shrews are very smart as they make trails or paths on the ground for their prey to appear. They do not leave any debris of their prey and flick the leftovers with their tongue just like an anteater. They mark their territories with the help of their scent glands. The elephant shrews live mostly in monogamous pairs in the wild only for reproduction purposes. The elephant shrews have a short lifespan and give birth four to five times in a single year.

What have scientists learned from elephant shrews' DNA?

The scientists, after studying the DNA of elephant shrews, have concluded that elephant shrews are related to elephants. After studying the round-eared elephant shrew species, and other different species of the shrew animal, scientists have confirmed the evolution of elephant shrews.

Are elephant shrews related to elephants?

Yes, elephant shrews are related to elephants as they have long snouts, just like the trunks of an elephant through which these two animals can eat food. The snout of the African elephant shrew is flexible and can be moved in the food’s direction, just like an elephant. Their large and round ears are also the reason they are related to elephants. Both help the sengi to find food and escape predators

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including northern short-tailed shrew, or southern short-tailed shrew.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our elephant shrew coloring pages.

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