is found only in central Africa, from the southern regions of Nigeria, Gabon, and The Central African Republic to the Northern regions of Angolia and Zambia. It is rarely found west of Tanzania and Uganda. One small population lives between Uganda and Kenya (African Mammal Databank).
prefers aquatic environments in the central African rain forest. Its preferred habitats include both high and low order streams, swamps, and during the rainy season some animals may migrate to small forest pools (Kingdon, 1997; Walker 1983).
The Giant Otter Shrew got its common name because of its physical resemblance to otters. It has a broad, flat muzzle covered with stiff whiskers, and flaps of skin that seal its nostrils when diving. It has small eyes and external ears. The thick round body is covered with a dense undercoat and course guard hairs.has a dark brown back and whitish under parts. The tail is covered with a short, silky coat of fur. It is compressed laterally, and allows to swim with a fish-like motion (Knigdon, 1997; Nicoll, 1985; Walker, 1983). Legs, which are short and lack webbed digits, are not used for swimming. The hind feet have a flap if skin along the inside that allows them to be held snugly against the body when swimming. There are also two syndactylous toes on the hind feet, used for grooming. On land is plantigrade (Walker, 1983; Nicoll, 1985). Females have two mammae on the lower abdomen (Nicoll, 1985).
Males move long distances in search of mates and it is thought that males rut during the wet season (Nicoll, 1985).
Little is known about the reproductive patterns of, but females examined were generally developing twins (Nicoll, 1985).
Little in known about the longevity of, but when held in captivity individuals quickly deteriorate (Nicoll, 1985).
is a strong, agile swimmer. Activity starts at dusk and continues into the night. digs burrows in the stream bank with underwater entrances and shelters there during the day. It chooses dry leaves with which to line its nest. This is also where breeding takes place. The burrows are frequently changed. When foraging, otter shrews take frequent grooming breaks. When traveling upstream the otter shrew travels on the bank more frequently than when traveling downstream. The night foraging routine is regular and predictable, and covers up to 800 meters a night. regularly visited discrete piles of feces that were sheltered and above the stream flood line (Nicoll, 1985).
is a nocturnal predator, hunting primarily by touch and scent in calm pools. It searches both the pool and the bank for food. It prefers areas that have cover to retreat to when it feels threatened (Nicoll, 1985). attacks prey using sharp bites, sometimes pinning the prey with its fore feet, and flipping crabs over to attack their ventral surface. When attacking larger prey hisses, and avoids crabs larger than 7 cm across (Nicoll, 1985; Walker, 1983). The prey preference varies among individuals; some prefer crabs; others, frogs, or even fish. Frogs are eaten headfirst and fish are pulled into manageable bits. Prey is consumed on the bank (Nicoll, 1985). They also eat insects, mollusks, and prawns.
The habitat ofis highly fragmented (Walker, 1983; African Mammal Databank; Nicoll, 1985). While they can tolerate seasonally cloudy streams, streams muddied from erosion and deforestation are little used (Walker, 1983; African Mammal Databank). Habitat quality is apparently important to this species. Some drown in fishing nets or fish traps (Walker, 1983; Kingdon, 1997), and members of this species have not survived well in captivity (Nicoll, 1985). There is ongoing research about the effects of human activity on them (African Mammal Databank).
Information onis scarce, and much of it is in languages other than English.
Despite it's common name "shrew" it should be noted thatis a tenrec, not a shrew.
Gabriel Tamaska (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ondrej Podlaha (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
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.
union of egg and spermatozoan
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
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 fish
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.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.
uses touch to communicate
"African Mammals Databank (*Potamogale Velox*)" (On-line). Accessed October 5, 2001 at http://www.gisbau.uniroma1.it/amd/amd028b.html.
Kingdon, J. 1997. Giant otter shrew. Pp. 137 in The Kingdon field guide to African Mammals. London and New York: Natural World: Academic Press.
Nicoll, M. 1985. The biology of the giant otter shrew *Potamogale velox*. National Geographic Society Research Reports, 21: 331-337.
Walker, E., F. Warnic, S. Hamlet, K. Lange, M. Davis. 1983. Giant African Water or Otter Shrew. Pp. 112 in J Paradiso, ed. Mammals of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.