Fourtoed sengi

Petrodromus tetradactylus

SUBFAMILY

Macroscelidinae

TAXONOMY

Petrodromus tetradactylus Peters, 1846, Tette, Mozambique.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Petrodrome, Rat a trompe tetradactyle; German: Vierzehen-Russelratte; Spanish: Petrodromo; Afrikaans: Bosklaasneus; Swahili: Isange.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The four-toed sengi is one of the larger sengi species, with a head and body length of 7-8.5 in (185-220 mm) and a tail length of 5-7 in (130-180 mm). Adult body weight runs 5-9.5 oz (150-280 g). The fur is long and soft. The coloration above is buffy with an orange or yellow tinge, or brown with a reddish tinge, with a grayish or brownish streak on the sides and flanks. White and reddish brown markings are usually present about the eyes. The underparts are white or red-brown. There are four toes on each hind foot (hence the common name), the first digit (hallux) missing. Females have four mammae.

DISTRIBUTION

Four-toed sengis are widespread, from central Democratic Republic of the Congo and southeastern Kenya through Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the northern Transvaal (South Africa).

HABITAT

Although sometimes found in semi-arid, rocky habitats, four-toed sengis prefer thickets and undergrowth of dense, equatorial forests.

BEHAVIOR

The species makes and maintains runways through brush and grass. It has a gait between walking and running, the tail pointed upward, but if alarmed it will break into long jumps with the hind legs. Individuals sleep outside under brush rather than in nests.

Four-toed sengis ground-rap or foot-drum with their hind feet, to sound warnings, invite the opposite sex during mating, and apparently to excite underground ants, which respond with sounds of their own that the sengi can hear and use to locate, uncover, and eat the ants. Individual four-toed sengis vocalize with shrill, cricketlike calls. They do not make nests, but shelter beneath dense vegetation or in random depressions.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The four-toed sengi is mostly crepuscular, major activity peaking just before dawn and just after nightfall. Their diet consists mainly of insects, particularly termites and ants, but they may add some plant matter to the menu.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous pairs defend territories sex-specifically. Breeding occurs throughout the year. The female gives birth to one or two young, each weighing about 1 oz (32 g). The precocial young can run as fast as their parents a day or two after birth.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN.The species is so widespread that it seems in little danger of decline.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Some humans hunt four-toed sengis for food. ♦

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