Reproductive biology

The reproductive biology of most Tenrecidae is poorly known—a few species have been studied in the wild or in captivity and certain details are available. Some species build nests out of vegetation that are placed in concealed places or exca-

A white streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps) probes the bark of a tree for insects. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

vate burrows ending in a nest chamber. The majority of species have three to five pairs of mammae.

Among Microgale living in humid forests, reproduction starts in September to October, coinciding with the start of the rainy season. Litters, generally varying from one to four, are born in November and early December. Neonates are naked with non-functional ears and eyes. Young start to make foraging bouts away from the nest after their eyes open at 22 to 27 days old. Most females probably have one or maximum two litters per year. Among certain species, there is evidence that they are reproductively mature before they have their full adult dentition. In captivity, certain species seem to form male-female pairs.

Tenrec has one of the highest breeding potentials of any mammal species in the world. Litters of up to 32 individuals have been documented, and more than 20 individuals is not uncommon. Females often have 32 to 36 mammae. After being born in late November to January, young emerge from the burrow at between 18-20 days old and commence actively foraging with their mother, and become independent at about 35 days.

Within the genus Geogale, there is a post-partum estrus and females are able to nurse one litter while another is developing in the uterus. This reproductive strategy is unknown in any other Tenrecidae, and may be an adaptation to the extremely dry conditions where this animal lives, allowing it to maximize reproductive output when optimal conditions prevail.

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