Eurasian pygmy shrew

Sorex minutus

TAXONOMY

Sorex minutus Linnaeus, 1766, Siberia, Russia. Status of the populations from Central Asia is uncertain.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Musaraigne minuscule; German: Zwergspitzmaus; Spanish: Musaraña enana.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 1.6-2.4 in (4-6 cm); tail 1.3-1.8 in (3.2-4.6 cm); weight 0.08-0.2 oz (2.4-6.1 g). Fur is dark gray-brown, lighter white on belly. Tail may have white tip.

DISTRIBUTION

Most of Europe to Yenisei River and Lake Baikal (Russia), and southwards to the Altai and Tien Shan Mountains in Asia

HABITAT

The lesser shrew is often found in the same habitats as the common shrew, but it is able to tolerate sparser ground cover. It prefers heaths, grasslands, sand dunes, and woodland edges. It seems to be adapted to cold and dampness better than the common shrew and can be found even on moorlands at higher altitudes.

BEHAVIOR

It is solitary and aggressive towards others of the same species. Territories of immature animals are largely mutually exclusive but the strict territoriality is abandoned at sexual maturity, particularly by males as they search for mates. Home range size varies from 0.1 to 0.5 acre (0.04-0.2 ha). Pygmy shrews are active during day and night, spending more time on the surface, unlike other shrews. They do not burrow, but use runways of other species.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet includes invertebrates in leaf litter—mostly beetles, spiders, and wood lice—but not earthworms. In captivity the food intake is about 100% body weight per day. Like other shrews, it is very vulnerable to starvation and will die quickly if its food supply runs out.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The breeding season lasts from April to October, with probably one or two litters per year. Litter size is 4-8. Pygmy shrews generally overwinter as immature animals, maturing the following spring. Population density ranges from one to nine individuals per acre (4-22 per hectare), depending on season and habitat. Species is probably promiscuous.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN, but included in the Conservation Action Plan for the Eurasian Insectivores.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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