Solenodon cubanusCuban solenodon

Geographic Range

Presently, Solenodon cubanus is limited to the Oriente Province in Cuba. However, fossils show that Solenodon species lived on the North American mainland 30 million years ago (Grzimek, 1990).


Solenodon lives in family groups in caves, natural hollows, and burrows in dense, wet mountain forests (Nowak, 1999).

Physical Description

Cuban solenodons have relatively large heads, tiny eyes, and large, projecting and partially naked ears. They have a long proboscus with a supporting bone. Their forelegs are longer than their hindlegs. On their feet they have five fingers with powerful claws at the end. The tail is thick, scaly, and almost hairless (Grzimek, 1990). Solenondon has an incomplete zygomatic arch and no auditory bulla. Their dental formula is 3/3,1/1,3/3,3/3 = 40 (Vaughn et al., 2000). Solenodon cubanus has a longer and finer pelage than does S. paradoxous, the only other extant species of Solenodon. The pelage of S. cubanus is blackish brown with white or buff. Head and body length of Cuban solenodons ranges from 280 to 390 mm, tail length from 175 to 255 mm, and they weigh about 1 kilogram. Solenodons have glands in their inguinal and groin areas that secrete a musky, goat-like odor. Females have two mammae. The submaxillary glands of S. paradoxus produce toxic saliva, which may help them to subdue prey. Presumably, S. cubanus also produces toxic saliva (Nowak, 1999).

  • Average mass
    1 kg
    2.20 lb
  • Average mass
    1000 g
    35.24 oz
  • Range length
    280 to 390 mm
    11.02 to 15.35 in


Mating behavior in solenodons is unknown.

Very little is known about reproduction in solenodons. Cuban solenodons have low reproductive rates of 1 to 2 offspring per litter. The young are born in a burrow. They have two litters per year and the young stay with their mother for several months (The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974; Massicot, 2001). Young from multiple litters may stay with their mother, with as many as 8 solenodons being found in a single nest.

  • Breeding season
    Breeding and births may occur throughout the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring

Young are cared for in their mothers nest until they reach independence. Presumably males do not care for young.


Solenodon are relatively long lived animals. A Cuban solenodon lived more than 5 years in captivity. They may be able to live longer as a Hispaniolan solenodon lived to 11 years in captivity (Vaughn et al., 2000).


Cuban solenodons are nocturnal (Vaughn et al., 2000). During the day, they stay in rock clefts, hollow trees, or burrows (Massicot, 2001). Only the toes of Solenodon come into contact with the ground. However, they can run surprisingly fast and can also climb (Nowak, 1999). Although Cuban solenodons are often found near vertical surfaces, they spend much of their time on the ground (Massicot, 2001).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Cuban solenodons are generalized omnivores that prefer animal material. They prey primarily on invertebrates, but also scavenge on vertebrate remains (Vaughn et al., 2000). They also eat insects, worms, small reptiles, roots, fruits, and leaves. Unfortunately, even though they have a large array of dietary items to choose from, their population is decling due to the slow rate of breeding (The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974). Cuban solenodons find food by rooting with their snouts or digging and uncovering animals with their large claws.

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • fruit


Cuban solenodons may be preyed on by snakes and birds of prey. Their secretive, burrowing habits probably protect them from many predators. They may also be able to use their toxic salivary secretions as a defense mechanism.

Ecosystem Roles

Cuban solenodons are important small, generalized predators in the ecosystems they inhabit. They help to control populations of invertebrates and may disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cuban solenodons are important predators of invertebrates that may act as pests.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no negative effect of Cuban solenodons on humans, unless one is provoked and bites in self-defense.

Conservation Status

Both S. cubanus and S. paradoxus are listed as endangered by the IUCN (Nowak, 1999). Populations of S. cubanus are declining due to the introduction of Old World rats (Rattus), mongoose (Herpestes), domestic dogs, and domesticc cats into the West Indies. The clearing of land for agriculture has also led to their decline (Vaughn et al., 2000).

Other Comments

Solenodon have highly developed senses of touch, smell, and hearing. The name Solenodon comes from the words solen (meaning “channel”) and dent (meaning “tooth”). The distribution of Solenodon on islands is probably the key to their survival. This is partially due to their low competitive ability (Vaughn et al., 2000). Solenodon cubanus is sometimes placed in the separate genus or subgenus Atopogale. Earlier in the 20th century, S. cubanus was thought to be extinct, but it was recently found in many parts of eastern Cuba, though it is rare (Nowak, 1999).


Melissa Theusch (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.



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

World Map


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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


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


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

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


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.


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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


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

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Grizimek, 1990. Grizimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol. 1. Boston: McGraw Hill Publishing Company.

Massicot, P. 2001. "Animal Info - Cuban Solenodon" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2001 at

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

The International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974. "Solenodon" (On-line). Accessed November 20, 2001 at

Vaughn, , Ryan, Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy Fourth Edition. Harcourt, Inc..