Welcome to the animal kingdom!
Welcome to the animal kingdom!

Order Afrosoricida Afrosoricida

Family Tenrecidae: tenrecs and otter shrews

The family Tenrecidae includes over 30 species of highly diverse animals that differ significantly in both sizes and appearances; the body lengths of tenrecs vary from 4 to 20 cm. Most of the tenrecs occur in Madagascar where they possibly appeared as early as in Cretaceous Period. Tenrecs have radiated in such a way that they include species that resemble animals from different geographical regions; thus, the common tenrec looks like the North American possum; lesser and greater hedgehog tenrecs resemble hedgehogs; long-tailed shrew tenrecs are similar to shrews in appearance; mole-like rice tenrecs look very much like moles; and the web-footed tenrec resembles the desman. Members of the family occupy diverse habitats and may be semi-aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial and fossorial.

Tenrecs have elongated heads; in some of them the snout is long in profile and is produced into a mobile proboscis. The tenrecs’ bodies could be covered with coarse hairs, fur or sharp spines (quills); front legs are typically shorter than hind legs. The feet of the forelimbs have 4 or 5 toes and the feet of the hind legs have 5 toes. The feet of semi-aquatic species are webbed. The length of the tail may range between 1 and 22 cm; in some species the tail is rudimental, while in other tenrecs (e.g., long-tailed shrew tenrec) the tail may be 2.5 times longer than the body and have 47 vertebrae, which is more than in any other mammals but pangolin. Tenrecs are found in subtropical or tropical forests, shrubland, steppes, and marshes of Madagascar. Most species are nocturnal or crepuscular, staying in the shelter during daytime. Tenrecs are mostly omnivorous. Many tenrec species are heterothermal; their body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment and they enter torpor during the day or hibernate seasonably.

Tenrecs breed once in a year, but the litter may consist of up to 25 young who develop surprisingly fast.

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