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Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Theria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Ordo: Macroscelidea
Familia: Macroscelididae


Macroscelidea Butler, 1956

Vernacular names
Български: Слонски земеровки
English: Elephant-shrews
日本語: ハネジネズミ目
Português: Musaranho-elefante
Svenska: Springnäbbmöss
Українська: Слонові землерийки


Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 2 Volume Set edited by Don E. Wilson, DeeAnn M. Reeder


Elephant shrews or jumping shrews are small insectivorous mammals native to Africa, belonging to the Macroscelididae family, in the order Macroscelidea. Their traditional common English name comes from a fancied resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an elephant, and an assumed relationship with the true shrews (family Soricidae) in the order Insectivora because of their superficial similarities. As it has become plain that the elephant shrews are unrelated to the shrews, the biologist Jonathan Kingdon has proposed that they instead be called sengis[3], a term derived from the Bantu languages of Africa.

They are widely distributed across the southern part of Africa, and although common nowhere, can be found in almost any type of habitat, from the Namib Desert to boulder-strewn outcrops in South Africa to thick forest. One species, the North African Elephant Shrew, remains in the semi-arid, mountainous country in the far north-west of the continent.

Elephant shrews are small animals with brownish gray coats. Elephant shrews vary in size from about 10 to almost 30 centimeters, from just under 50 g to over 500 g. The Short-eared Elephant Shrew has an average size of 150 millimetres (5.9 in). All are quadrupedal with mouse-like tails, and rather long legs for their size which are used to move in a hopping fashion like rabbits. Although the size of the trunk varies from one species to another, all are able to twist it about in search of food. Their life span is about two and a half to four years in the wild.[4][page needed] They have large canine teeth, and also high-crowned cheek teeth like those of ungulates[5]. Their dental formula is:


Although mostly diurnal and very active, they are difficult to trap and very seldom seen: elephant shrews are wary, well camouflaged, and adept at dashing away from threats. Several species make a series of cleared pathways through the undergrowth and spend their day patrolling them for insect life: if disturbed, the pathway provides an obstacle-free escape route.

Elephant shrews are not highly social animals, but many live in monogamous pairs, which share and defend a home territory, which they mark using scent glands[5]. The Rhynchocyon species also dig small conical holes in the soil, bandicoot style, but others may use natural crevices, or make leaf nests.

Short-eared elephant-shrews inhabit dry steppes and stone deserts of Southwestern Africa. They even can be found in the Namib-desert, one of the driest regions of the earth. Elephant-shrews live in pairs and defend territories. Females drive away other females while males try to ward off other males. Although they live in pairs, the partners do not care much for each other and their sole purpose of even associating with the opposite sex is for reproduction. Social behaviors are not very common and they even have separate nests. The one or two young are well developed at birth. They are able to run around just a few hours after birth.[6]

Females give birth to litters of one or three young several times a year, after a gestation period varying from 45 to 60 days. The young are born relatively well developed, but remain in the nest for several days before venturing outside[5].

The mating period lasts for several days and is followed by six weeks of gestation. After mating, the pair will return to their solitary habits. The female then will give birth to 1-2 young in one of her leaf nests. Only for nursing purposes are the young visited by the mother. After 5 days the young are fed mashed insects with the milk, which are collected and transported in the cheek pouches of the female. The young then slowly start to explore their environment and start to hunt for insects. After about 15 days, the young will begin the migratory phase of their life which lessens the dependency of the young on their mother. The young will then establish their own home ranges (about 1 km2) and will become sexually active within 41–46 days.[7][8]

Feeding habits

All elephant-shrews eat mainly invertebrates, such as insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms. An elephant-shrew uses its nose to find prey and uses its tongue to flick small food into its mouth, much like an anteater. Eating large prey can pose somewhat of a challenge for the elephant shrew. For example, a giant elephant-shrew struggling with an earthworm must first pin its prey to the ground with a forefoot. Then, turning its head to one side, it chews pieces off with its cheek teeth, much like a dog chewing a bone. This is a sloppy process, and many small pieces of worm drop to the ground; these are simply flicked up with the tongue. Some elephant-shrews also feed on small amounts of plant matter when available, especially new leaves, seeds, and small fruits.[7]


A number of fossil species are known, all of them from Africa. There was a considerable diversification of macroscelids in the early tertiary period. Some, such as Myohyrax, were so similar to hyraxes that they were initially misidentified as belonging to that group, while others, such as Mylomygale were relatively rodent-like. These unusual forms all died out by the Pleistocene[2]. Although macroscelids have been classified with many groups, often on the basis of superficial characteristics, there is now considerable morphological and molecular evidence for placing them within Afrotheria, probably close to the base of Paenungulata.


In the past, elephant shrews have been classified with the shrews and hedgehogs as part of the Insectivora; regarded as distant relatives of the ungulates; grouped with the treeshrews; and lumped in with the hares and rabbits in the Lagomorpha. Recent molecular evidence, however, strongly supports a superorder Afrotheria which unites tenrecs, and golden moles with certain ungulates or mammals that were previously presumed to be ungulates, including hyraxes, sirenians, aardvarks and elephants, as well as the elephant shrews.
There are 16 species of elephant shrew in four genera, two of which are monotypic.


1. ^ a b Schlitter, Duane A. (2005-11-16). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M.. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 82-85. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
2. ^ a b Savage, RJG, & Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. pp. 54. ISBN 0-8160-1194-X.
3. ^ Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. London: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11692-1.
4. ^ Encyclopedia of Animals. Online database: EBSCO Publishing.
5. ^ a b c Rathbun, Galen B. (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 730–733. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
6. ^ "Short-eared elephant-shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus) - A "living fossil" from the Namib-desert". Natur Spot. Retrieved February 2010.
7. ^ a b Rathbun, Galen B (September 1992). "The Fairly True Elephant-Shrew". Natural History (New York) 101.
8. ^ Unger, Regina. "Short-eared Elephant-Shrews". Retrieved February 2010.
9. ^ Smit, H.A.; Robinson, T.J.; Watson, J.; Jansen Van Vuuren, B. (October 2008). "A new species of elephant-shrew (Afrotheria:Macroselidea: Elephantulus) from South Africa". Journal of Mamology 89 (5): 1257–1269. doi:10.1644/07-MAMM-A-254.1.
10. ^ "AFP: Shrew's who: New mammal enters the book of life". Google. January 2008. Retrieved February 2010.


* Murata Y, Nikaido M, Sasaki T, Cao Y, Fukumoto Y, Hasegawa M, Okada N. Afrotherian phylogeny as inferred from complete mitochondrial genomes. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2003 Aug;28(2):253-60.
* Murphy WJ, Eizirik E, Johnson WE, Zhang YP, Ryder OA, O'Brien SJ. Molecular phylogenetics and the origins of placental mammals. Nature. 2001 Feb 1;409(6820):614-8.
* Tabuce R, Marivaux L, Adaci M, Bensalah M, Hartenberger JL, Mahboubi M, Mebrouk F, Tafforeau P, Jaeger JJ. Early Tertiary mammals from North Africa reinforce the molecular Afrotheria clade. Proc Biol Sci. 2007 May 7;274(1614):1159-66.

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