Solenodon paradoxusHispaniolan solenodon

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Geographic Range

Solenodon paradoxus can be found exclusively on the island of Hispaniola in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most specimens have been discovered in northern Hispaniola.

Habitat

Solenodon paradoxus can be found in wooded and brushy areas, often near areas of agriculturally developed land. Because solenodons are nocturnal they find shelter during the day in tunnel systems that they construct by burrowing through organic material and soil. They also take refuge in hollowed logs and trees, caves, and cracks in rocks.

Physical Description

Solenodon paradoxus looks much like a shrew. However, it is considerably larger. A black to reddish-brown pelage covers the majority of the body, with the exception of the tail, feet, nose, and tips of the ears. The forelimbs are considerably more developed than the hindlegs, but all limbs have claws presumably for digging.

Its heads is large in proportion to its body and the rostrum is elongated. A defining characteristic of Solenodon paradoxus is the os proboscis, a bone (which supports a long cartilaginous snout) located on the tip of the rostrum. This species' dental formula is 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 40. The second lower incisor has a groove from which a venom is secreted from a mandibular gland.

Males of this species have an unexposed penis and testes residing deep within the abdominal cavity.

  • Range mass
    600 to 1000 g
    21.15 to 35.24 oz
  • Range length
    0.28 to 0.33 m
    0.92 to 1.08 ft
  • Average length
    0.31 m
    1.02 ft

Reproduction

Little is known about the mating system and behavior of Solenodon paradoxus. Before mating, the female constructs a nest in which she will birth and nurse her young. It is known that females have an estrus period that irregular and not coordinated with the seasons. Males, in contrast can mate at any time. When first introduced to each other, solendons may engage in aggressive behavior, but it is unknown whether this is an attempt at sexual dominance.

Very little is known about the reproductive behavior of Solenodon paradoxus. This species breeds at an extremely slow rate, only twice per year. Newborns weigh from 40 to 55 grams and are 15.2 to 16.3 cm in length, with little hair and closed eyes (Fons, 1990). The information below was provided by Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction (Hayssen, et al, 1993).

  • Breeding interval
    These solenodons breed twice yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding seasonality is unknown.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    >50 days
  • Average gestation period
    50 days
    AnAge
  • Average weaning age
    75 days

The number of young that can survive is limited to the small number, two, of teats the female possesses. These are on her dorsal side, near the rump (International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974). Young are nursed for 13 weeks, at which time they begin to eat solid food. Solenodon paradoxus is born with only a minimal layer of hair, barely covering its body. A more dense coat fills in within 14 days. After 75 days, a young is no longer nursing and is eating solid food.

Lifespan/Longevity

There is very little information concerning the lifespan/longevity of Solenodon paradoxus. John F. Eisenberg cited a specimen that lived in captivity for 11 years and four months, the longest recorded lifespan of this species (Nowak, 1999).

Behavior

Solenodon paradoxus is a burrowing animal that forms complicated series of tunnels underneath humus and soil. It is nocturnal, and it finds shelter during the day by burrowing, or finding cover in hollowed logs, trees, or cracks in rocks. This species is known for its clumsy, zig-zagged gait.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Reports conflict on whether Solenodon paradoxus consumes vegetation, along with their standard diet of invertebrates. Walker's Mammals of the World states that members of the genus Solenodon feeds on various fruits and vegetables. However, a study conducted by Erna Mohr found that solenodons refused all forms of vegetation. From this study, a list of items included in the diet of members of the genus Solenodon's was compiled from fecal analysis (Fons, 1990). This list is shown below. Solenodon paradoxus collects food by digging extensive tunnel systems under the ground, then foraging for insects and other invertebrates from the surrounding soil.

Foods eaten include: millipedes (Iulides), ground beetles (Carabidae), various orthopteran insects (Gryllidae, Tettigoniidae, Blattidae), earthworms (Lumbricidae) and various types of snails.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Before the European colonization of Hispanolia, which has resulted in the introduction of several predators of solenodons the island, Solenodon paradoxus was one of the dominant predators on Hispaniola. In fact, to this day, it lacks any truly natural predators and does not possess many anti-predator adaptations. Solenodon paradoxus is described as a "slow mover" and a "clumsy runner with no agility in avoiding enemies and a poor means of defense" (International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974). It has been observed sitting still, with its head hidden, while predators are in pursuit.

Ecosystem Roles

Because of the small numbers of Solenodon paradoxus, it barely contributes, if at all, to its ecosystem. If Solenodon paradoxus were present in greater numbers it might effect the populations of insects and other invertebrates that it preys upon. Furthermore, its extensive burrowing and tunneling might contribute to soil aeration.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because of its small numbers, Solenodon paradoxus is incapable of causing any significant detriment to the human economy. When it was present in higher numbers, farmers reported destruction of crops as a result of solenodon activity. However, this crop destruction was incidental to the solenodon's predation on insects beneath the soil.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

As late as the 1960's, Solenodon paradoxus was not considered to be in any danger of extinction. However, in more recent years, the decline of suitable forest habitat through deforestation, an increase of human activity in their habitat, and the introduction of new predators (domesticated canines and felines) have contributed to the enormous decrease this species' numbers.

Other Comments

There is very little information available about Solenodon paradoxus. This may be a result of the geographic range of this species. Charles A. Woods, who has done research on this species, has found only 15 dead specimens and collected 3 reports of sightings from locals in Haiti (Woods, 1981).

Contributors

Adam Eatroff (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

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.

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

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).

molluscivore

eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca

motile

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynandrous

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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical

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

viviparous

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

References

Fons, R. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Volume 1. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company.

Hayssen, V., A. Tienhoven, A. Tienhoven. 1993. Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974. "Solenodon" (On-line). Accessed October 3, 2001 at http://www.scs.ryerson.ca/aferworn/research/Solenodon.html.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition, Volume 1. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Woods, C. 1981. Last Endemic Mammals in Hispaniola. Oryx, 16:148: 146-152.