Habitat

The Insectivora are primarily terrestrial mammals, living either on or under the ground. Many insectivores are fosso-rial and a few are aquatic. Insectivores have been recorded to inhabit altitudes ranging from sea level up to 14,760 ft (4,500 m) in the mountains of Nepal. Approximately 30 species of the Talpidae are fossorial (burrow diggers) to some extent. A number of tenrecs and soricids as well as all the chrysochlo-rids are fossorial as well. Golden moles dig burrows in sandy areas, plains, cultivated areas, and forests. Gymnures find shelter under brush piles, tree roots, deserted burrows, or even termite mounds. Solenondons prefer forests and rocky areas whereas tenrecs like rainforest and brushlands. Shrews, the most widespread members of the order, have been recorded living in a multitude of different habitats and altitudes ranging from the dry hot desert to high snowy mountains and everything in between.

Most shrew species prefer moist habitats. They live in shallow runways that they dig themselves or that are made by other animals, under decomposed leaves and twigs, and several species construct nests in hollowed out logs, under rocks, and in tunnels. Solenodons tend to build nests only during the mating season. The short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda) build two types of leaf or grass nests in tunnels or

A Grant's golden mole (Eremitalpa granti) consumes a locust in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert, Nambia. (Photo by Michael Fogden. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

under logs and rocks: a small resting nest and a large mating nest.

The aquatic moles, desmans, shrews, and moonrats live right next to bogs, swamps, springs, rivers, and streams. Some, Eurasian water shrews (Neomys fodiens) for example, even dig tunnels that open into bodies of water. These mouse-sized mammals make sure the diameter of their tunnels is small enough to squeeze the water from their fur as they exit the water. Although most arboreal species appear in other orders, several insectivore species are known to seek refuge in trees when attacked or to forage (Sylvisorex, the forest musk shrews). Some shrews, such as the short-tailed shrew, are good climbers and have been observed scampering up several feet (meters) up trees to pilfer suet from a bird feeder.

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