Behavior

Given that most species of Tenrecidae are small nocturnal and forest-dwelling animals it is not surprising that few details are available about their life history.

Two genera of Tenrecidae have a dense grouping of spiny hairs on their back that have been modified into quill-like structures and form a stridulating organ. In young Tenrec, this organ is well developed and is used for communication within family groups, and with increasing age the quill-like struc-

The yellow streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) uses its long snout to find earthworms. (Photo by H. Uible/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
The lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi) is nocturnal. (Photo by H. Uible/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

tures are replaced with standard spines and the organ no longer functions. In Hemicentetes adults possess a mid-dorsal stridulating organ, also formed of modified spines. These quills, when vibrated by muscle action, produce an ultrasonic sound that can be detected by nearby conspecifics.

The spines of Tenrecinae are used in a defensive fashion against predators. In Hemicentetes, the easily detachable spines

A long-tailed shrew tenrec (Microgale principula) in front of its burrow. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

A yellow streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) forages for insects. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

A long-tailed shrew tenrec (Microgale principula) in front of its burrow. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

A yellow streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) forages for insects. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

of the back with their very fine fishhook tips are raised when a potential predator approaches. If the predator makes direct contact, it can receive a face full of spines. Although this must be a formidable deterrent, spiny tenrecs are frequent prey for native predators.

During the austral winter, several species of Tenrecidae show a shift in activity patterns behavior, ranging from a reduction in daily movements to complete hibernation. These shifts are correlated with changes in ambient temperature, photoperiod, and food availability. In certain species, such as Hemicentetes nigriceps or Tenrec ecaudatus, animals enter a profound torpor during the period from approximately May to October. A further variation within the family is found in Ge-ogale, which is heterothermic and body temperature follows the ambient temperature. This species has a notably low resting metabolic rate, even for a Tenrecidae.

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