Setifer setosusgreater hedgehog tenrec(Also: Madagascan hedgehog)

Geographic Range

Greater hedgehog tenrecs are found throughout the island of Madagascar and are endemic to this island. ("Setifer setosus", 2012; "Small Mammals: Greater Madagascar Tenrec", 2012)


The island of Madagascar ranges from sea level to 2,250 meters above sea level, and Setifer setosus is found throughout the island, with the exception of wetlands and marshes. Greater hedgehog tenrecs are seen in urban areas and even in areas with extensive human disturbance. The prime habitat for greater hedgehog tenrecs are the eastern forests and lower elevations because of their eating habits, but they are found in wet and dry areas. ("Setifer setosus", 2012; "Small Mammals: Greater Madagascar Tenrec", 2012; "Tenrecs (Tenrecidae)", 2004)

Physical Description

Greater hedgehog tenrecs may seem similar to hedgehogs (Erinaceidae), but they are tenrecs (Tenrecidae), which are distantly related. Greater hedgehog tenrecs have a round muzzle and white-tipped, sharp spines that densely cover their back, sides, and tail. They vary in color depending on their location: they can be light colored or blackish, with dark brown or whitish soft hairs covering their limbs and ventral surface. Greater hedgehog tenrecs have relatively long whiskers. They weigh 6.3 to 9.5 ounces. They are 6 to 8.6 inches long, and have a half-inch long tail. The dental formula for S. setosus is: 3/3, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3. Sexes cannot be differentiated by size. Lactating females have 5 pairs of prominent nipples. ("Small Mammals: Greater Madagascar Tenrec", 2012; Garbutt, 2007)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    175 to 300 g
    6.17 to 10.57 oz
  • Average mass
    280 g
    9.87 oz
  • Range length
    160 to 225 mm
    6.30 to 8.86 in


Greater hedgehog tenrecs have been poorly studied because they are nocturnal and cryptic. They are promiscuous, seasonal breeders. Males may use chemical communication to signal sexual readiness, this consists of a white substance that is secreted from their eyes. (Levesque, et al., 2012)

The breeding season begins shortly after emergence from hibernation in late September to mid-October and lasts until just before greater hedgehog tenrecs re-enter hibernation in April. The length of the breeding interval is unknown. During a breeding season, 1 to 5 young may be born. The gestation period ranges from 51 to 65 days. In captivity, 3 days after birth, the young weigh approximately 20 grams and measure a length of 75 mm. Lactation extended until 3 weeks after birth in captive individuals, after which females show a decline in interest towards the young. At approximately 14 days old, young accompanied the female outside of the nest during her trips to the food dish to learn the route back to the nest, but this period only lasted about 3 days. The age at which the young reach sexual or reproductive maturity is unknown. ("Small Mammals: Greater Madagascar Tenrec", 2012; "Tenrecs (Tenrecidae)", 2004; "The Tenrecs: A study in Mammalian Behavior and Evolution", 1969; Levesque, et al., 2012)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals are unknown.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding begins in late September to mid-October and ends in April.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Range gestation period
    51 to 69 minutes
  • Average weaning age
    12 days
  • Average time to independence
    17 days

During the week of parturition, female shows increased nest building behavior. After birth, maternal behavior consists of licking young, huddling over them while they nurse, and an increased defensive behavior if nest is disturbed. ("The Tenrecs: A study in Mammalian Behavior and Evolution", 1969)

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


Greater hedgehog tenrecs have been studied very little, despite their abundance throughout Madagascar. The longest observed lifespan in captivity has been 14.1 years. ("Setifer setosus", 2012)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    14.1 (high) years


Greater hedgehog tenrecs are nocturnal. They enter a daily torpor and a seasonal torpor, or hibernation. They nest in shallow holes in the ground or in tree cavities during the day so that they are out of visual range. They have the ability to roll into a ball, tuck their head and limbs towards their body, and enclose themselves into an impermeable shield of spines. (Gould and Eisenberg, 1966)

Home Range

Greater hedgehog tenrecs are found throughout the island of Madagascar and their home range is large for a relative small mammal. In males, the average range is 13.7 +/- 4.9 ha. In females, the average range is 6.7 +/- 2.0 ha. (Levesque, et al., 2012)

Communication and Perception

Greater hedgehog tenrecs may communicate by grunts, squeaks, and chirps. A grunt will occur when an individual isn’t highly motivated, but does not want to be contacted. A squeak will occur with a mild disturbance. A chirp will occur at mating, most frequently made by a female when the male first mounts. A ‘pouf-pouf’ and hissing sound will occur during offensive and defensive behaviors. When greater hedgehog tenrecs touched, they will curl into a ball with their spines pointed out in all directions, or they will jump and scratch with their spines. The males secrete and white substance from their eyes which may be chemical communication related to sexual readiness. Greater hedgehog tenrecs will also place feces and urinate outside their burrows, which may signal territoriality. ("The Tenrecs: A study in Mammalian Behavior and Evolution", 1969; Garbutt, 2007; Gould and Eisenberg, 1966; Levesque, et al., 2012; Rand, 1935)

Food Habits

Greater hedgehog tenrecs are omnivores. They eat insects, grubs, and other invertebrates and are eat fruits and will scavenge. They forage at ground level, although they are also known to climb. (Garbutt, 2007)

  • Animal Foods
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


There are no major threats to greater hedgehog tenrecs, although they are locally threatened by overhunting in some parts of their range. To protect themselves, they have the ability to roll into a ball, tuck their heads and limbs towards their body, and enclose themselves into an impermeable shield of spines. They will also defecate and urinate if they are disturbed, which can serve as a predator deterrent. Specific cases of predation on greater hedgehog tenrecs are not reported, but they may be preyed on by snakes or birds of prey. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2012; Gould and Eisenberg, 1966)

Ecosystem Roles

Although greater hedgehog tenrecs are one of the largest and most common species of tenrec, they are poorly studied. Greater hedgehog tenrecs are insectivores as well as frugivores. In the process of eating fruit, they could disperse seeds. (Garbutt, 2007; Levesque, et al., 2012)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Greater hedgehog tenrecs are used for food and have the potential to be seed dispersers, although this has not been studied. Greater hedgehog tenrecs are highly valued as food because of their high fat content. If greater hedgehog tenrecs are seed dispersers, humans can benefit from this as it helps promote new growth of fruit-bearing plants. (Rand, 1935)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Setifer setosus on humans.

Conservation Status

Greater hedgehog tenrecs are considered "least concern" by the IUCN as their populations are large and they are found in a wide variety of habitats throughout Madagascar. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2012)


Rachel Owens (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


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.


flesh of dead animals.


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


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

island endemic

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


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 all kinds of things, including plants and animals


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

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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


lives alone


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


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

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.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


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.


2012. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Setifer setosus. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

2012. Setifer setosus. Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

2012. "Small Mammals: Greater Madagascar Tenrec" (On-line). Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

2004. Tenrecs (Tenrecidae). Pp. 225-235 in M Hutchins, A Evans, J Jackson, D Kleiman, J Murphy, T Thoney, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, 2nd Edition. Detroit: Gage. Accessed January 31, 2013 at|CX3406700816&v=2.1&u=lom_nmichu&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&authCount=1.

Smithsonian Institution Press. The Tenrecs: A study in Mammalian Behavior and Evolution. City of Washington: United States Government Printing Office. 1969. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

Garbutt, N. 2007. Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. United States: Yale University Press. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

Gould, E., J. Eisenberg. 1966. Notes on the Biology of the Tenrecidae. Journal of Mammalogy, 47/4: 660-686. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

Harris, M., L. Olson, W. Milsom. 2004. The Origin of Mammalian Heterothermy: A Case for Perpetual Youth?. Pp. 142-152 in B Barnes, H Carey, eds. Life in the Cold: Evolution, Mechanisms, Adaptation, Application, Vol. 27. University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.: Biological Papers of the University of Alaska. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

Levesque, D., D. Rakotondravony, B. Lovegrove. 2012. Home range and shelter site selection in the greater hedgehog tenrec in the dry deciduous forest of Western Madagascar. Journal of Zoology, 287/3: 161-168. Accessed January 31, 2013 at

Rand, A. 1935. On the Habits of Some Madagascar Mammals. Journal of Mammalogy, 16/2: 89-104. Accessed January 31, 2013 at