Nectogale eleganselegant water shrew

Geographic Range

Nectogale elegans is a monotypic species found in the Oriental region of the world (Tate 1947). The Elegant Water Shrew is also found in the Himalayas and southeast Tibet, hence one of its other names, the Tibetan Water Shrew. (Corbet & Hill 1980)


As its common names would suggest, N. elegans is found in or near water. It can be found in clean, mountain streams of China, Tibet, Nepal, etc. The shrew lives both in the water and in stream beds. (Parker 1990, 490)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    900 to 2270 m
    2952.76 to 7447.51 ft

Physical Description

The Elegant Water Shrew has soft, velvety fur. Its dorsal side is described as having slate-colored fur mixed in with long, white guard hairs (Tate, 1947). The ventral side of the shrew is similar in color to its dorsal side, but without the guard hairs (Parker 1990). The neutral fur coloring of Nectogale elegans allows it to blend in easily with its background.

Its tail, which is moderately thick, is basically black except for the stiff-haired, white, lateral fringes that aid it in swimming and paddling. (Tate, 1947) These fringes merge together along the shrew's underside and give its tail a long pyramidal appearance (ITSES 1995, 10/8/01).

The streamlined shape of the shrew is enhanced by the strong reduction of its pinnae in its ears (Vaughan, Ryan, Czaplewski 2000, 116-7). In fact, the ears are so small that the outer ear conch can hardly be detected (Tate, 1947).

The only part of the shrew that is not gray is the fur around its mouth, which is cream-colored (Tate, 1947). The shrew also has a relatively long snout (Nowak 1995). The shrew's 28 teeth are adapted to feeding on fish.

On the soles of the shrew's feet are disk-shaped "adhesive" pads (Parker, 1990). These pads may help the shrew climb along wet rocks and may aid in the grasping of its prey (Nowak, 1995). The feet are also broad and webbed and also contain guard hairs to aid in swimming (Tate, 1947). These fringes of stiff, white hairs can be seen along the edges of the digits (Nowak 1995).

The size of the N. elegans is large for a shrew. Its head and body length ranges from 90-128 mm and its tail length alone is about 89-110 mm (Parker, 1990). The Elegant Water Shrew is about the same size as the Musk Shrew, Suncus murinus (Tate, 1947).

Form and function go hand-in-hand in the Elegant Water Shrew. Its gray-and-white color along with iridescent fur allow the Elegant Water Shrew to blend in with its surroundings. The shape of the shrew makes it easier to dive for food. In addition to swimming and diving well, the shrew's adaptations also allow it to burrow into the banks of the streams it inhabits.

  • Range mass
    25 to 45 g
    0.88 to 1.59 oz
  • Range length
    90 to 128 mm
    3.54 to 5.04 in


No information is known about the reproduction of the Nectogale elegans.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual


Nectogale elegans swims and dives in mountain streams. It also burrows into the banks of the streams. No other habits or aspects about its behavior are known.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Nectogale elegans is an aquatic species that is well adapted to swimming and diving for its food. Its teeth are well adapted for eating small fish. Foods eaten by N. elegans include insects and larvae, crustaceans, and small fish.

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Although there are descriptions of Nectogale elegans that date back to as early as 1870, not much is known about it.


Divya Jain (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


an animal that mainly eats fish


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


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.


Anonymous, 1995. "ITSES--Insectivore, Tree Shrew & Elephant Shrew Specialist Group" (On-line). Accessed October 8, 2001 at

Corbett, G., J. Hill. 1980. A World List of Mammalian Species. London & Ithaca: British Museum (Natural History) Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press.

Nowak, R. 1995. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed October 3, 2001 at

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. I. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co..

Tate, G. 1947. Mammals of Eastern Asia. New York: MacMillan Company.

Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy: Fourth Edition. Fort Worth: Saunders College Publishing, a division of Harcourt College Publishers.