Eastern rock sengi

Elephantulus myurus




Elephantulus myurus Thomas and Schwann, 1906, Woodbush, Transvaal, South Africa.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Langschwanz-Rüsselspringer.


The head and body length range 8-11.5 in (202-290 mm), the tail slightly longer. Adult body weight runs 1.5-3 oz (41-98 g).

Eastern rock sengis may hop with the hindlimbs, but most of the time they walk or run about on all fours. There are five digits on each foot with small claws, while the digits of the hind feet, are equipped with digital pads to give them purchase on rocky surfaces. The first digit of the forefoot (as in all species within genus Elephantulus) is set off from the other digits.

The dorsal coat of the animal is brownish gray and soft, while the ventral side is pale gray. The ears and eyes are dark brown, each eye framed by a white ring. Limbs and tail are white on the dorsal sides and devoid of hair on the ventral sides. Black limbs and tail distiguish E. myurus from other Ele-phantulus species.


Elephantulus myurus is distributed across southern Africa from western Mozambique in the north to Orange Free State in the south, and in southern Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, and throughout the Transvaal.


Eastern rock sengis live in the semi-arid, temperate savannas of southern Africa, most often within heaps of boulders (koppies). The climate is semi-arid and nearly rainless for eight months of the year, interrupted by four months of rains. Temperatures can rise to 95-104°F (35-40°C) in hot summer months, descending to subzero temperatures in winter.

Another sengi species, E. brachyrhynchus, the short-snouted sengi, shares general territory with E. myurus, but E. brachyrhynchus prefers a separate habitat, the sandy, flat terrain surrounding the koppies; the habitats of the two species rarely overlap.


The eastern rock sengi is primarily diurnal, but shows a good deal of activity at sunrise and sunset. The species avoids activity during the afternoon, the hottest time of day. During the winter months, the animals are less active. Eastern rock sengis do not make nests or burrows, but hide in rock crannies, so that they take up residence only in koppies with generous complements of cracks and crevices. Eastern rock sengi vocalizations and footdrumming may be alarm calls or feints to throw off pursuers. They can run fast and hop if needed, and usually stay near or uunder rocky overhangs.

Although not confirmed, eastern rock sengis probably live as monogamous pairs, sex-specifically defending their territory. The animals forage in areas within or near their koppies, close to vegetation or overhanging ledges, for cover from predators.


The Eastern rock sengi is primarily insectivorous, but varies its diet with plant material. Ants and termites are the major insect food, making up about 42% of its diet, but it nevertheless helps itself to a broad variety of invertebrate food. The diet remains constant even through changes of season. Individuals snag ants and termites with their snouts in tandem with their fore-claws. Glands within the snout produce secretions that collect on the bare nether tip, which may counterract the chemical defenses of the ants and termites.

The eastern rock sengi has a functioning caecum which may also store water. While the weights of individual E. myurus remain constant throughout all seasons, the digestive tract significantly shortens during the rainy winter, when the animals slow their activities. As the tract shortens, its ability to resorb water decreases. This physiology and behavior restricts needless activity during the cool, non-mating months of winter. The digestive tract lengthens in the spring, and its water resorbtion increases, as the sengis step up their activities for the mating season, their need for more food energy increases to fill the energy demands for reproduction, and their bodies begin hoarding water for the approaching hot, dry summer.

Kidney function aids and abets water retention in E. myurus, the kidney design being similar to that of other mammals adapted to dry ecosystems, allowing increased urine concentration in order to retain water.


Eastern rock sengis mate between July and January, during which time they use foot-drumming and scent-marking to announce intentions and attract mates. The male reproductive organs increase in size during the breeding season, and decrease size and sperm production somewhat during the non-breeding months.

The young are born anytime from September to March. Newborns are highly precocial, able to run several hours after birth. Average weight of the young at birth is 0.28 oz (8.1 g). The young remain hidden until they reach about one-third adult size. The parents drive the young away when the latter become sexually mature.


No Special Status. The rocky habitat of E. myurus is useless to humans and therefore little disturbed by people.


The eastern rock sengi is home to a variety of parasites, particularly ticks, the specific tick species varying in abundance with seasons. Some of these parasites are vectors for a variety of human and domestic animal diseases. The tick species Ixodes rubi-cundus and R. punctatus can cause paralysis in domestic livestock, H. leachi is a vector for biliary fever in dogs and Q-fever in humans, and Rhipicentor nuttalli causes paralysis in dogs.

Studies of a related sengi species, E. edwardii, the cape sengi, report on a form of malaria carried by that species that is not normally found in humans, thus rendering the species valuable in malarial research.

0 0

Post a comment