Microgale talazaciTalazac's shrew tenrec

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Geographic Range

Long-tailed tenrecs, Microgale talazaci, can be found in northern and eastern Madagascar. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

Habitat

Long-tailed tenrecs adjust to a variety of environments. They usually reside in humid forests where there is dense vegetation near the surface. Microgale talazaci is a surface forager and climber. The species can be found from low elevation forests (800 m) to montane forests (2300 m). (Garbutt, 1999; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    800 to 2300 m
    2624.67 to 7545.93 ft

Physical Description

Microgale talazaci weighs between 31 and 47 g. It measures from 40 to 130 mm in length, and its tail adds an additional 43 to 160 mm to the total length. The tail can be as long as 1.5 times the length of the head and body. There is no obvious sexual dimorphism. Unlike other members of the genus (e.g. Microgale dobsoni), which can gain extensive amounts of fat during winter, M. talazaci does not appear to accumulate fat or become less active during winter.

The fur is short, dense, and soft. The dorsal side is dark brown, sometimes black, and the ventral side is usually gray. The long tail is prehensile. The forelimbs have five digits, but are not adapted for digging. These tenrecs have large ears. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999; Stephenson, 1995)

  • Range mass
    31 to 47 g
    1.09 to 1.66 oz
  • Range length
    40 to 130 mm
    1.57 to 5.12 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.243 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Microgale talazaci is primarily solitary, but a male and female will sometimes form a stable relationship which lasts throughout the year. Based upon this stability, it is likely that the species is monogamous, although specific reports of this are lacking. At the beginning of the breeding season, there are some signs of aggression towards members of the same sex, which may indicate that there is some competition for or defense of mates. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999; Stephenson and Racey, 1993)

  • Breeding interval
    Microgale talazaci is capable of breeding every two months.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding typically occurs during the austral spring/summer.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    58 to 63 days
  • Range weaning age
    28 to 30 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    21 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    639 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    21 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    639 days
    AnAge

Little is known about parental investment in this species. However, it is known that the young are small and probably altricial at birth, weighing only about 3.6 g. As in other mammals, it is likely the female who provides the bulk of parental care to offspring, nursing, cleaning, and protecting them as they grow. Young are weaned at about 28 to 30 days of age, and no data are available on the relationship between mother and offspring after this time. The role of the father in parental care is not known. (Nowak, 1999)

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

Lifespan/Longevity

From a captivity study, the maximum longevity is 5 years and 10 months. (Nowak, 1999)

Behavior

Microgale talazaci is probably like other tenrecs in that it is active both day and night. Long-tailed tenrecs are primarily solitary, but male and female relationships develop. These animals sleep in burrows and also use an extensive tunnel system. Because of the length of their tail in relation to their body, these animals are considered surface foragers and climbers. (Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

The home range of these animals has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

Little is known about M. talazaci communication. Other members of the genus are reported to make several vocalizations during agonstic encounters, and it is likely that M. talazaci is similar. (Nowak, 1999)

Although not reported for this species, it is likely that M. talazaci uses other forms of communication. It is likely that scent cues are important, especially in individual identification and reproduction. Tactile communication is also probably important between mates, as well as between mothers and their offspring. The role of visual signals in these animals has not been reported.

Another member of the same genus, Microgale dobsoni, is reported to use echolocation to help navigate its environment. It is not known whether M. talazaci uses similar echolocation. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

M. talazaci feeds primarily on insects and sometimes frogs. Members of the genus Microgale apparently use sounds and scents to locate their prey. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • insects

Predation

Because M. talazaci is small and lacks spines in its fur to deter predators, this species is potential prey for any larger animals, especially snakes and myriapods. Specific details on predation upon these tenrecs are lacking. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

  • Known Predators

Ecosystem Roles

Little is know about the role of M. talazaci in its ecosystem. However, it is reasonable to assume that as predators, these tenrecs have some impact on populations of insects and other invertebrates. As a prey species, M. talazaci influences predator populations.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Long-tailed tenrecs eat insects and mix soil. These two behaviors may positively affect humans who live near these animals. (Nowak, 1999; Stephenson, 1995)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative economic impacts which these tenrecs have upon human populations.

Conservation Status

Although M. talazaci is not listed by any major conservation organizations as threatened or endangered, it does inhabit forests which are under pressure from expanding human populations. Other members of the genus Microgale are listed as conservation concerns.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Maureen Belknap (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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.

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

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

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

fossorial

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

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.

native range

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

nocturnal

active during the night

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

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

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

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

Garbutt, N. 1999. "Talazac's Shrew Tenrec" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2004 at http://info.bio.sunysb.edu/rano.biodiv/Mammals/Microgale-talazaci.

Goodman, S., J. Benstead. 2003. The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Jenkins, , MacPhee. 1988. "Walker's Mammals of the World" (On-line). Long-tailed Tenrecs. Accessed February 08, 2004 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/book/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/insectivora/insectivora.edu.

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

Stephenson, P. 1995. Small mammal microhabitat use in lowland rain forest of north-east Madagascar. ACTA Theriologica, 40/4: 425-438.

Stephenson, P., P. Racey. 1993. Reproductive Energetics of the Tenrecidae . Physiological Zoology, 66/5: 664-685.