- Habitat Regions
- Range elevation
- 0 to 1,740 m
- 0.00 to ft
Mysorex varius is sexually dimorphic in the KwaZulu-Natal/Drankensberg region, with males being significantly larger than females in regards to total mass as well as head and body size; however, populations in other regions, such as Eastern Cape, exhibit little to no sexual dimorphism. Body-size is correlated to habitat altitude, as higher altitude individuals tend to be much smaller than those resident to lower altitudes. is endothermic and bilaterally symmetric. It has a basal metabolic rate of 38.9 J/g hr. The forest shrew’s body temperature is highly variable, ranging from 33.2 to 38.3 degrees C. It can withstand temperatures as low as 6 degrees C by increasing heat production. (Apps, 2000; Brown, et al., 1997; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)ranges from dark grey to a brown. Venter hair tends to be grey with white tips and its feet are an off-white color. Its tail is dark-brown dorsally and pale underneath. Total body length averages 12.6 cm, with an average tail length of 4.3 cm, which is about 46% of its entire body length.
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- male larger
- Average mass
- 12 g
- 0.42 oz
- Average length
- 12.6 cm
- 4.96 in
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- post-partum estrous
- Breeding season
- breeds during the wet season of spring and summer.
- Range number of offspring
- 2 to 5
- Average number of offspring
- Range weaning age
- 20 to 25 days
- Average weaning age
- 24 days
Prior to weaning, (Apps, 2000)females provide food and protection for their offspring. Once pups are fully weaned, they become independent of their mother's care.
- Parental Investment
- female parental care
- Range lifespan
- 12 to 16 hours
- Range lifespan
- Typical lifespan
- 12 to 16 months
- Typical lifespan
African forest shrews are predominantly nocturnal, showing a sharp rise in activity at dusk and sharp decline at dawn. However, diurnal activities have also been documented occasionally active during the daytime. Evidence suggests that African forest shrews are nocturnal during the summer months but becomes diurnal during mid-winter. This allows the shrew to be in its warm nest during the coldest hours of the night. During the day, they stay in their nests for only a couple hours at a time, leaving for brief periods to find food and defecate. The feces of the forest shrews is highly pungent. When the shrew does leave its nest, it is extremely cautious and remarkably aggressive. African forest shrews are active burrowers, using their front claws and their long pointed snout. The insides of their burrows and nests are spherical. Forest shrews often modify abandoned burrows of mole rats, rather than excavate their own. If they do create their own nest, it is typically a shallow nest. Nests are constructed from grass, and contain two to four entrances. Typically, nests contain a single breeding pair of shrews. In general, shrews sleep on their bellies with their head tucked under their chest and their feet and tail tucked in under the body. Forest shrews, like most soricids is territorial and aggressive. (Apps, 2000)
Communication and Perception
Communication in African Forest shrews is limited. Nesting pairs chatter to each other, and when alarmed or fighting, they may produce a sharp squeak. Forest shrews rely on acoustic, visual, tactile, and chemical cues to perceive their environment. Courting behavior between potential mates consists of a males chasing and catching mates by the nape. Males rely on their sense of smell to determine whether a female is in estrus or not. (Apps, 2000; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)
crustaceans, millipedes and centipedes, and arachnids. It frequently drinks small amounts of water. When eating small prey, it first beheads the arthropod and then rapidly bites the insect down the abdomen before beginning to actually eat the animal. When consuming large prey, throws the insect into the air and breaks off any legs or hind limbs by jerking or twisting them off and then beheads and bites the insect. Cannibalism has been documented in M varius and occasionally consumes carrion of conspecifics or rodents. In captivity, it has been known to eat plants, however, this has never been observed in wild populations. (Apps, 2000; Bedford, et al., 2004; Wirminghaus and Perrin, 1992)is insectivorous. It is considered an opportunistic feeders and eats most invertebrates it encounters. Evidence suggests that it feeds on at least 7 different types of arthropods including
- Animal Foods
- terrestrial non-insect arthropods
- aquatic crustaceans
- Plant Foods
The main predator of forest shrews is barn owls. However, water mongooses, striped weasels and striped polecats are also significant predators as well. To avoid predation, they only leave their nest to obtain food and to defecate. When they do leave their nest, it only leaves for small amounts of time to avoid contact with predators. When in danger, they let out a sharp squeak to alert their nest mate of the potential threat. (Apps, 2000)
- Known Predators
- barn owls, water mongooses, striped weasels, and striped polecats
- Ecosystem Impact
- creates habitat
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
As an insectivore, (Apps, 2000)likely helps control insect pest species throughout its geographic range.
- Positive Impacts
- controls pest population
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects ofon humans.
is categorized as a species of least concern by the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species and all other known conservation organizations. Population trends are stable, and there are no major threats to the long-term persistence of this species.
Jency Joseph (author), The College of New Jersey, Matthew Wund (editor), The College of New Jersey, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
- 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
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.
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
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.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
an animal that mainly eats dead animals
- 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
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
- tropical savanna and grassland
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
- temperate grassland
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Apps, P. 2000. Smither's Mammals of Southern Africa: A Field Guide. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Publishers.
Bedford, J., R. Bernard, R. Baxter. 1998. The 'hybrid' character of the gametes and reproductive tracts of the African shrew, Myosorex varius, supports its classification in the Crocidosoricinae. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, 112(1): 165-173.
Bedford, J., O. Mock, S. Goodman. 2004. Novelties of conception in insectivorous mammals (Lipotyphla), particularly shrews.. Biological Reviews, 79-4: 891–909.
Brown, C., E. Hunter, R. Baxter. 1997. Metabolism and thermoregulation in the forest shrew Myosorex varius (Soricidae: Crocidurinae). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology, 118(4): 1285-1290.
Rowe-Rowe, D., J. Meester. 1982. Population dynamics of small mammals in the Drakensberg of Natal, South Africa.. Z. Saugetierkunde, 47(6): 347-356.
Skinner, J., C. Chimimba. 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wirminghaus, J., M. Perrin. 1992. Diets of small mammals in a southern African temperate forest.. Israel Journal of Zoology, (38)3-4: 353-361.