Microgale longicaudatalesser long-tailed shrew tenrec

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Geographic Range

Microgale longicaudata is endemic to Madagascar. This species is specifically located in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country, ranging from the Parc National de la Montange d' Ambre at 12 degrees South to the Parc National d'Andonhahela at 25 degrees South. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Habitat

Long-tailed tenrecs, M.longicaudata, are terrestrial mammals with a preference for areas of dense vegetation. They can be found in various habitats located across Madagascar, including Eastern humid forest, Central highlands, the mountainous Northern highlands, Sambirano lowland forest, Western deciduous dry forest, and the isolated humid forest of Montange d' Ambre. They inhabit elevations of from 440 m above sea level to 1990 m. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

  • Range elevation
    440 to 1990 m
    1443.57 to 6528.87 ft
  • Average elevation
    1250 m
    4101.05 ft

Physical Description

M. longicaudata is small, weighing only 5 to 12 g, and measuring 75 to 158 mm in total length. Like other members of the genus, M. longicaudata has an exceeding long, prehensile tail. The tail is usually is 1.5 to 2.6 times the length of the body. The tail is composed of 47 vertebrae, which is more than any other mammal besides the pangolins. The tail is used by these animals in their climbing and richocheting locomotion. To aid in their semi-arboreal and scansorial lifestyle, M. longicaudata also possess elongated hindfeet and digits. (Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999; Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999; Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

Although data on this particular species are lacking, the genus Microgale is known to possess coats composed of a soft dark brown to black fur on the back with a gray or lead colored belly. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

Since the testes, which have a volume of 50 mm^3, are found in the abdominal area and do not descend into a scrotum, there is very little to rely on for external physical cues to determine sex. Males and females are almost indistinguishable from one another. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

The animals are very much like shews, except they have ears are conspicuous, and project above the fur. Their dental formula is 3/3 1/1 3/3 3/3. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    5 to 12 g
    0.18 to 0.42 oz
  • Average mass
    7 g
    0.25 oz
  • Range length
    75 to 158 mm
    2.95 to 6.22 in

Reproduction

Although not much is known about the mating system of M. longicaudata, some information is available for their relatives. The mating system apparently varies across the genus: M. dobsoni males are known to pair up with a female only during the breeding season, whereas M. talazaci males may establish a more permanent male/female relationship. Mating may be polygynous or monogamous. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999)

Information on the reproductive behaviors of M. longicaudata is not available. However, some data exist for other species in the genus. One congener, M. dobsoni, has a spring and summer breeding season, although another congener, M. talazaci is known to have a breeding season that is 1 to 2 months longer. Parturition in members of the genus Microgale occurs from late November through early December with the start of the rainy season. These animals become sexually mature before their adult dentition is present and have 6 to 8 mammae. They are known to have a maximum litter size of 2 offspring. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    The breeding interval of M. longicaudata is not known.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for this species has not been determined.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 (high)

Details on the parental care of these animals are lacking. However, as mammals, we know that females provide their young with milk, grooming, and protection during the early part of their lives. The role of males in parental care of these animals is not known.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Information is unknown.

Behavior

Members of the genus Microgale are known to be solitary in nature. M. longicaudata has a nocturnal activity pattern and resembles a shrew in terms of lifestyle. It uses its hind limbs and elongated prehensile tail for climbing and richochetting among tree branches in forest habitats. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Home range size for these animals is unknown.

Communication and Perception

With reduced eye size, visual cues are not thought to be very important to these animals. Microgale relies mainly on tactile, chemical, and auditory communication. (Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999; Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999)

Vocal communication ranges from a soft squeak to a trill. Wails are associated with submissive behavior. Squeaks are used when animals are in a defensive mode, and a buzzing is often produced during attacks. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999)

Tactile communication includes nose to nose contact, nose to ear, nose to genital region, as well as full body rubbing. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999)

Chemical communication may be involved in the practice of saliva spreading, which has been observed in tenrecs. Although there is little research on chemical communication in these animals, it is thought that chemical signals are also involved when the Microgale touches its nose to glandular areas on its body, such as the ear, forehead, or cloaca. (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Members of the genus Microgale are known to be insectivorous. Specifically, M. longicaudata is known to consume various invertebrates including Coleoptera (beetles), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps,and ants), Orthoptera (grasshoppers), Arachnida (spiders and ticks), and Amphipoda (flat bodied crustaceans). (Eisenberg and Gould, 1970; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; )

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • aquatic crustaceans

Predation

Although specific information for M. longicaudata is not available, members of the genus Microgale fall prey to large reptiles, birds, and mammals. M. taiva is known to occasionally consume congeners M. longicaudata, M. principula, and M. cawani. However, there were only seven instances of this cannibalism, which occurred in pitfall trapping and may have resulted from the absence of an escape, rather than the true nature of M. taiva. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Ecosystem Roles

M. longicaudata acts as both prey and predator in its ecosystem, although any influential role is either not present or remains undiscovered at this time. M. longicaudata is known to serve as host for several parasites, including Eimeria, Babesia (a vertebrate blood cell parasite), L.(M.) calcaratua, L.(A.) papillosus, and L.(M.) uniformis. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Species Used as Host
  • none known
Mutualist Species
  • none known
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Eimeria, Babesia (a vertebrate blood cell parasite), L.(M.) calcaratua, L.(A.) papillosus, and L.(M.) uniformis.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

No economic importance for this species has been documented.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No economic importance has been documented for these animals.

Conservation Status

These animals are not known to be a conservation concern. Although not evaluated, it is likely that they are somewhat vulnerable to habitat loss, as are many other animals in Madagascar.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

sarah stevens (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

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

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

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).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

rainforest

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.

sexual

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

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

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

References

Eisenberg, J., E. Gould. 1970. The Tenrecs: A Study in Mammalian Behavior and Evolution. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Goodman, S., J. Benstead. 2003. The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the Worls, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.