Physical characteristics

Tenrecidae show an assortment of morphological characters. They maintain certain characteristics that have been considered primitive among living mammals. These include, for

A long-tailed tenrec uses its extremely long prehensile tail. Left inset shows that the tip of the tail is naked underneath, and right inset shows the enlarged fifth digit of the hind foot. (Illustration by Gillian Harris)

example, small body size, common urogenital opening, and abdominal testes in reproductive males. Tenrecidae range from small- to medium-sized mammals and span a remarkable morphological gamut from the large (up to 44 lb; 2 kg) spiny tenrec, the hedgehog-like Echinops and Setifer, the desman-like Limnogale, the mouse-like Geogale, the molelike Oryzorictes, and the shrew-like Microgale (with adults of some species weighing less than 0.14 oz; 4 g). The tails of Ten-recinae are very short or at least not discernable, while among most other species in the other two subfamilies, the tail varies in length and is covered with short fine fur. Members of this family, particularly Setifer and Echinops, can roll themselves

Harald Sch
A rice tenrec (Oryzorictes hova) foraging. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

into tight balls when disturbed. No species, with the exception of Tenrec ecaudatus, display any measurement or pheno-typic feature that differs between the sexes.

Even within the genus Microgale there is considerable variation in body morphology. For example, M. gymnorhyncha and M. gracilis are probably semi-fossorial and have dense velvety pelage, well developed forelimbs and associated digging claws, and reduced ears and eyes, while the partially arboreal or scan-sorial M. principula and M. longicaudata have notably long hind limbs and prehensile tails measuring more than twice as long as their body length.

Otter shrews in the genus Micropotamogale are small, brownish gray animals with unwebbed feet and a round tail. The giant otter shrew (Potamogale velox), as its name implies, is considerably larger (about twice as long and much heavier) and has glossy chocolate-brown fur and a thick, rudderlike tail.

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