Feeding ecology and diet

Most Tenrecidae feed on insects and a variety of other soil invertebrates—few quantitative studies are available. In the western dry deciduous forests, Tenrec feed extensively on soil-dwelling beetle (Coleoptera) larvae of the families Scarabaei-dae and Alleculidae, and to a lesser extent on ants (Hymenoptera), scolopenders (Chilopoda), and butterfly (Lepidoptera) larvae. They are known to also feed on fruits and vertebrates.

A study conducted in the humid forests of eastern Madagascar on the diets of Microgale spp., based on stomach contents, found that various types of Orthoptera were the most frequently consumed prey, followed by Hymenoptera and Coleoptera. Remains of other animals were also identified, including Dermaptera, Annelida, Arachnida, and Amphipoda. At the level of determination, no clear dietary differences were found between sympatrically occurring Microgale subspecies.

The most common prey of Limnogale, an aquatic tenrec with a flattened tail and webbed feet that hunts while swim

A large-eared tenrec (Geogale aurita) foraging in Madagascar. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

ming, is Ephemeroptera nymphs, followed by larvae of Odonata, Trichoptera, and Coleoptera. A few other types of aquatic invertebrates (crabs and crayfish) and vertebrates (frogs) are also taken. In addition to worms and insects, otter shrews also prey upon crabs, fishes, frogs, and mollusks found in their aquatic habitat.

It is assumed that most terrestrial Tenrecidae actively hunt their prey amongst leaf and rotten wood litter, fallen branches, and root tangles of standing trees or scansorial species on vegetation in the forest understory to mid-canopy. In some cases, particularly for genera with well developed digging claws, prey is excavated from the ground and may be detected by scent and acoustic signals. For most Tenrecidae prey are pinned down with the forelimbs and then seized with the mouth.

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