Today at Light Future Art, we’re going to take some time to share with you fun facts about the elephant shrew …
1. … who isn’t actually a shrew at all. They are more closely related to the first part of their name than the second, as well as aardvarks and manatees.
2. Like aardvarks, they are insectivores. They forage in leaf litter to find their diet of ants, millipedes, worms, spiders, and beetles. They live in forested areas, though some can live in more open grassland environments.
3. Elephant shrews can be found in Central and Southeastern Africa, specifically in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Malawi.
4. Elephant shrews have been recorded moving at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour and can hop a length of three feet. Their back legs are considerably larger and stronger than their forelimbs and can jump in a way similar to a rabbit.
5. Unusually, elephant shrews are mostly diurnal. Some are awake during both the day and night. Most small rodents are nocturnal. Their sandy brown fur makes good camouflage even in sunlight. If their camouflage doesn’t protect them from predators, they will quickly dash into one of their many nests and burrows, many of which are interconnected in an extensive underground system.
6. Elephant shrews are monogamous. However, elephant shrew couples don’t spend all their time together. While they are frequently out of each other’s sight, they scent mark where they’ve been so that their partner can keep track of their location.
7. Young elephant shrews grow up quickly. There are about four or five litters of young born every year. The babies are totally dependent on their mother for the first three weeks and follow her around closely for another week after that. All told, by the time they are about three months old, they are completely ready to find their own territory and fend for themselves.
8. Elephant shrews have not been domesticated by humans. This is in part because they are fairly aggressive towards humans. They can also be aggressive towards one another. When housed together in captivity, a large space is required so as to reduce fighting.
9. There are many fossil specimens from which we can learn the evolutionary history of elephant shrews, all of which are from Africa. They split off from other African insectivores about 60 million years ago. The genus which we know as elephant shrews became distinct less than 30 million years ago.
10. Elephant shrews are all very small. Their average length is between four and 12 inches, not including the length of their tails. Their tails can usually be up to nine inches long. The majority of elephant shrews weigh less than a pound, although the largest species of elephant shrew weighs about a pound and a half. Still not very much!
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