Anourosorex squamipesmole shrew

Geographic Range

The geographic range of Anourosorex squamipes, commonly known as the Chinese mole shrew, extends from the northern and western borders of China, to Vietnam in the south, and Taiwan to the east. (Milne-Edwards, 1872; Motokawa and Lin, 2002)


According to a study completed in Yushan National Park in Taiwan, elevation has little effect on the habitat selection of A. squamipes. Anourosorex squamipes inhabits a wide range (between 300 to 3100 m) of elevations. Their habit type is primarily montane forest. Anourosorex squamipes lives a semifossorial lifestyle, burrowing in the topsoil and organic litter and coming to the surface for food. (Francis, 2008; Hutterer, 1985; Molur, 2008; Yu, 1994)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 3100 m
    984.25 to 10170.60 ft

Physical Description

Chinese mole shrews have reduced eyes, tail, and ear pinnae. The tail is approximately 10 mm long and scaly. Chinese mole shrews have a long rostrum and lack a zygomatic arch. Enlarged rostra increase the effectiveness of olfaction, which is important for communicating among individuals and finding food. The small size of the ears is due to their semifossoral lifestyle. They have large, sharp incisors for grasping insect prey and crushing the exoskeleton. Their dental formula is: incisors 1/1, canines 0/0, premolars 3/3, and molars 3/3. Enlarged front claws and elongated digits on the manus facilitate burrowing through soil. The short, strong skull is an important adaptation for pushing through soil while burrowing. Their fur consists of guard, awn, and woolly hairs for insulation and protection. The fur color is greyish brown as individual hairs have grey bases and brown tips. At the posterior portion of the body, the hair is shiny due to mucilaginous secretions. Chinese mole shrews do not hibernate and can persist in temperatures as low as -3.4 degrees Celsius and as high as 41.2 degrees Celsius (Lioa et al., 2005a as cited in Liao, Zhou, and Hu, 2011). Body length varies with elevation, age, and season. Individuals generally become larger with age (Liao et al., 2005a as cited in Liao, Zhou and Hu, 2011). Average adult length is between 85 and 110 mm. Body size is larger in warmer months than cooler months, partially due to the increased availability of food. Warmer and stable temperatures at lower elevations result in an increased food supply. In a population in China the average body length of males ranged from 91 to 92.5 mm during the cooler months of the year (January to December). Female individuals average slightly longer body lengths with a range of 91.5 to 93.3 mm during cooler months. During the warmer months (March to October), when they consume more food and energy, male body length ranged from 94.0 to 102.7 mm, while female body lengths ranged from 96.0 to 103.8 mm. The species is sexually dimorphic, females are generally larger than males. One study determined the average mass to be 20 g. Another study conducted in the Guizhou province of China recorded the average mass of over one hundred individuals to be just over 31 g. Discussion is ongoing regarding the delineation of subspecies within A. squamipes, which are often defined by minor physical differences. One suggestion is that A. squamipes consists of two subspecies, A. s. squamipes and A. s. yamashinai, which occupy different geographic areas (Hoffmann, 1987 as cited in Motokawa and Lin, 2002). Another suggestion is that A. squamipes consists of four subspecies based on differences in skull size and shape. (Francis, 2008; Hutterer, 1985; Jin, et al., 2012; Kuroda, 1935; Liao, et al., 2011; Motokawa and Lin, 2002; Motokawa, et al., 2003; Repenning, 1967; Schulte-Hostedde, et al., 2005; Yang, et al., 2013)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    85 to 110 mm
    3.35 to 4.33 in
  • Average length
    97.8 mm
    3.85 in


Chinese mole shrews have a polygynandrous mating system. In this type of mating system, a female copulates with multiple male partners (two to five males) and a male copulates with multiple female partners. (Liao, et al., 2013)

Chinese mole shrews breed during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, with no breeding occurring during winter (Liao et al., 2005a as cited in Liao, Xiao and Cai, 2013). Spring, summer, and fall coincide with an increase in temperatures and precipitation when compared to the winter season (Liao et al., 2005a as cited in Liao, Xiao and Cai, 2013) and this is when the availability of their primary food source, insects and worms, is high. In winter months there is a reduction in testes size. During the breeding seasons, the testes size of male A. squamipes becomes enlarged. Larger sized males tend to have larger testes sizes.

The short life span of shrews encourages a rapid life history which increases reproductive rates. The gestation period is approximately 20 days. Due to this short gestation period, offspring require relatively long lactation periods (approximately 30 days). The number of young conceived per litter is usually greater than five. As temperatures decrease, reproductive rates also decrease. Maintaining homeothermy becomes more costly when temperatures decrease, forcing Chinese mole shrews to allocate more energy for survival and less energy towards reproduction. (Genoud and Vogel, 1990; Liao, et al., 2013; Stephenson and Racey, 1995)

  • Breeding season
    Mating occurs during the months April, May, June, July, August, September, and October (Liao et al. 2005a as cited in Liao, Xiao and Cai, 2013)
  • Range number of offspring
    5 (low)
  • Average gestation period
    20 days

With a relatively short gestation period, newly born offspring are altricial and require parental care. Chinese mole shrew females must invest a significant amount of energy during their relatively lengthy lactation period for milk production. (Genoud and Vogel, 1990)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Chinese mole shrews live for approximately one year (Zong, 1998 as cited in Liao, Zhou, and Hu, 2011). On average, most shrew species live for one and a half to two years. Age structure changes as the seasons change due to high mortality of older individuals during cooler, winter months. Mortality of older individuals during winter months is largely due to a lack of food resources, predation, and natural completion of their life cycle. (Liao, et al., 2011; Symonds, 2005)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 years


According to a study conducted in Taiwan, burrows created by A. squamipes may be used by multiple individuals as more than one individual was captured in the same trap at this site. This study indicates that Chinese mole shrews may be a social species and not territorial as found in most shrew species. The exact nature of this burrow sharing social system is unknown. (Hutterer, 1985; Saarikko, 1989; Yu and Liao, 2000; Yu, 1994)

Home Range

Nothing is known about the home range of this species. (Yu, 1994)

Communication and Perception

Despite the reduced ears and lack of auditory bullae in shrews, their hearing is well developed. Shrews have a strong tactile sense using vibrissae located on the head and forelimbs, aiding in the ability to navigate and locate prey through vibrations. Shrews have small eyes and well developed scent glands. (Hutterer, 1985)

Food Habits

Chinese mole shrews are insectivores with a diet primarily consisting of insects from the orders Coleoptera and Hymenoptera, as well as worms from the order Ophisthopora. According to a study conducted in Nanchong, China, the stomach contents of Chinese mole shrews also contain vegetation from the forest floor and shed skin. This portion of the diet is particularly high in winter months when insects and worms are scarce. Decreases in food availability during the winter was determined by the high number of empty stomachs in sampled individuals. (Abramov, et al., 2008; Liao, et al., 2013; Liao, et al., 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms


A predator of Chinese mole shrews in western China is the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). Consumption rates of A. squamipes by short-eared owls are particularly high during winter months, most likely due to a reduced diversity of prey species available to these owls during these times. Chinese mole shrews decrease in size during winter and it has been suggested that a decreased size during winter months results in smaller targets as a means to avoid predation by owls (Heaney, 1978 and Brown, 1995 as cited in Liao, Zhou, and Hu, 2011). As older Chinese mole shrews are generally larger, the higher mortality during winter could possibly be due to a greater vulnerability to owl predation. (Li, et al., 2007; Liao, et al., 2011; Yang, et al., 2013)

  • Known Predators
    • short-eared owls (Asio flammeus)

Ecosystem Roles

Chinese mole shrews are hosts for bloodsucking ectoparasitic Gamasid mites. Dipolaelaps anourosorecis is the Gamasid mite species that is most commonly associated with A. squamipes.

Chinese mole shrews are semifossorial, occupying the litter on the surface of the earth as well as burrows in the topsoil. Burrowing in soil creates macropores which affects the structure of soil, rate of soil erosion, and the movement of air and water through the soil. Also, burrowing from leaf litter into the top soil may result in the mixing of organic matter from the surface into subsurface soil layers. (Hole, 1981; Huang, et al., 2010; Hutterer, 1985)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Dipolaelaps anourosorecis

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is no known positive economic importance for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Chinese mole shrews are capable of carrying varieties of the hantavirus, including the Lianghe virus and the Cao Bang virus. Hantavirus does not harm insectivore hosts, but can be harmful to humans and other animal species. If contracted by humans, hantavirus can cause the respiratory disease Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome which may be fatal. It can also cause hemorrhagic fever and renal syndrome. Chinese mole shrews often host ectoparasitic Gamasid mites which are capable of carrying several zoonotic diseases, including dermatitis, rickettsial pox, and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. (Arai, et al., 2007; Fernandez, 2001; Guo, et al., 2013; Huang, et al., 2010; Laine, 1994)

Conservation Status

There are few conservation efforts for shrews as they have little impact on humans. There are no significant threats to the persistence of A. squamipes, therefore, there are no specific protection efforts for A. squamipes. (Molur, 2008; Symonds, 2005)

Other Comments

Small mammals such as A. squamipes may have been used historically in China as a source of food. This theory is supported by the presence of burn marks on skeletal remains from the Pleistocene and Holocene epoch at the ancient site of Tangzigou. It is suggested that burn marks were created from cooking. (Jin, et al., 2012)


Jarrett Friesen (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


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