Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Taming of the Shrew...The Etruscan Shrew of Malta and Gozo

Scientific name: Suncus etruscus
English: Etruscan shrew
Maltese: Buggedum zghir or Gurdien Geddumu twil 

Photo and information by Mr. Arnold Sciberras

Information:  This species is the smallest known mammal by mass, weighing only about 1.8 grams on average. Because of their high ratio of surface area to body volume, the Etruscan shrew have an extremely fast metabolism and have to eat 1.5–2 times their body weight in food per day. They feed up to 25 times per day, mostly on various invertebrates (insects, their larvae, earthworms, etc.) as well as small vertebrates (young frogs, lizards and rodents), and can hunt prey of nearly the same body size as themselves. They prefer species with a soft and thin exoskeleton and for this reason avoid ants when given a choice. They kill large prey by a bite to the head and eat them immediately, whereas they take small insects back to their nest. When hunting, the Etruscan shrews mostly rely on their sense of touch rather than vision and may even run into their food at night. The Etruscan shrew might play important role in controlling the insect population. Unfortunately although protected by law, this is the fate of many as when they enter houses to feed on pests they are mistaken for mice instead of being welcomed. In Gozo an endemic species occurs.

Etruscan Shrew [photo by Arnold Sciberras]

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