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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 3.2 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these animals rarely live more than one year. One captive specimen lived for 3.2 years (Richard Weigl 2005). In one study in captivity, animals featured a high mortality, though inadequate husbandry conditions could be to blame (Pucek 1964).
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Reproduction

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Gestation takes place for 19-21 days. Young are born weighing between 0.5-0.6 grams. The young are weaned after 26-30 days, and reach sexual maturity at 9 or 10 months.(Parker 1990, Mitchell-Jones 1999)

Range gestation period: 19 to 21 days.

Range weaning age: 26 to 30 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 to 10 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 to 10 months.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average birth mass: 0.44 g.

Average number of offspring: 6.

Parental Investment: altricial

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Conservation Status

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The main threat to Sorex araneus is by habitat destruction through road construction and development in Europe(Stone 1995).

The common shrew in England is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and cannot trapped without a license (The Mammal Society 2001).

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Benefits

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Sorex araneus eats helpful invertebrates such as earthworms and spiders.

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Benefits

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There may be some pest invertebrates in the diet of Sorex araneus.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Associations

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Sorex araneus makes burrows below ground, and also uses the burrows of mice, voles, and moles. (Stone 1995)

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Trophic Strategy

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It is an opportunistic feeder that preys upon many insects, woodlice, spiders, and earthworms. (Cove et al. 2000)

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Distribution

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Sorex araneus is found in Europe, including Great Britain and the Pyrenees. The extent of its range to the east is Lake Baikal, except in the dry steppes and desert zone. It is not found in Iberia, or most of France.(Mitchell-Jones 1999, Stone 1995)

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Habitat

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Sorex araneus lives in variable habitats. These include woodlands, grassland, dunes, scree, heath, and hedgerows. It can live as far as the limits of the summer snow line.(Parker 1990)

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Life Expectancy

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Sorex araneus can live for about 2 years. (Mitchell-Jones 1990)

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
2 years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
2.0 years.

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Morphology

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Sorex araneus has a tricolored coat. The ventral side is grayish, and the dorsal side varies in color from black to reddish brown. Its flanks are nut brown. Its tail is brown on the dorsal side, and gray ventrally. It has small eyes and it ears are hidden in fur. It has red-tipped teeth.(Mitchell-Jones 1990, Stone 1995)

Range mass: 5 to 14 g.

Range length: 48 to 80 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.348 W.

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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Associations

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There are a number of predators of Sorex araneus, as listed below. (Kristofik 1999, Parker 1990)

Known Predators:

  • tawny owls (Strix aluco)
  • stoats (Mustela erminea)
  • weasels (Mustela)
  • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
  • reptiles (Reptilia)
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Taylor, M. 2002. "Sorex araneus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sorex_araneus.html
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Meghan Taylor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Biology

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Shrews are well known for their voracious appetites (3); the common shrew has to eat every 2-3 hours and needs to consume 80 to 90% of their body weight in food in 24-hours (3). They feed on most terrestrial insects, but will also take worms, slugs and snails (2). The common shrew is more active during the night, at dusk, and at dawn, and intersperses bursts of activity with rest periods (3). Shrews do not hibernate, as they are too small to store fat reserves sufficient to see them through the winter (3). This solitary species is territorial (2), but during the breeding season males set off in search of females. His advances may stimulate scuffles and high-pitched squeaks from unreceptive females (3). Mating begins in March, and 1-2 (sometimes 3 or 4) litters are produced in a year, each one consisting of 6-7 young (5). By 16 days of age the young begin to emerge from the nest, they can occasionally be seen following their mother around in a 'caravan', usually after the nest has been disturbed. The young grab the tail of the shrew in front of it, so the mother takes the lead and her offspring follow in a train (3). Juveniles breed in the year after their birth, but occasionally those born early in the year can breed between July and September that year (5). Common shrews live for 14-19 months, and mortality rates are high; main predators include owls, birds of prey, foxes, cats and stoats and weasels (5). Shrews belonging to the genus Sorex are known to produce ultrasound, which may be used as a primitive form of echolocation (5).
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Conservation

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All shrews are protected under schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; under this act it is illegal to trap shrews without a licence (3).
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Description

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The common shrew, one of Britain's most abundant mammals has a long, flexible snout, tiny ears and small eyes typical of most shrews (2). The fur is dark brown on the back, with paler brown flanks and a pale belly (1). Juveniles have lighter fur until they undergo their first moult, after which their winter coat grows (3). This species is a 'red-toothed shrew'; iron is deposited in the enamel of the crowns of the teeth, making them more resistant to wear-and-tear (3). The Latin name araneus means 'spider'; this refers to the old belief that shrews were poisonous, like spiders.
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Habitat

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Inhabits a huge variety of habitats where there is good vegetation cover, including 'edge' habitats such as road verges (5).
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Range

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Distributed throughout mainland Britain, as well as on many offshore islands. The common shrew also occurs throughout most of Europe but is absent from Ireland and the Mediterranean (5).
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Status

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Partially protected in the UK under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3). Listed under Schedule III of the Bern Convention, and classified as a Species of Conservation Concern under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, although not a priority species (4).
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Threats

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In farmland areas, this species is likely to be affected by pesticides, either through secondary contamination through their prey or by direct exposure (5). Decreases in prey availability can greatly affect survival as shrews have such high metabolic rates (5). The decline in hedgerows, field boundaries and other features that provide important habitats for shrews resulting from agricultural changes may also affect shrews (5).
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Brief Summary

provided by Ecomare
Common shrews are common on the mainland, but are not found on most Wadden Islands. You will only find them on Terschelling, Borkum and Baltrum. They are active day and night and have a high metabolism. Every day, they must eat one and a half times their body weight. Their food consists of beetles, slaters, worms, spiders, snails, carrion and seeds from conifers. Common shrews have a good sense of smell and can find food ten centimeters deep under the ground.
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Common shrew

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The common shrew (Sorex araneus), also known as the Eurasian shrew, is the most common shrew, and one of the most common mammals, throughout Northern Europe, including Great Britain, but excluding Ireland.[3] It is 55 to 82 millimetres (2.2 to 3.2 in) long and weighs 5 to 12 grams (0.2 to 0.4 oz), and has velvety dark brown fur with a pale underside. Juvenile shrews have lighter fur until their first moult. The common shrew has small eyes, a pointed, mobile snout and red-tipped teeth. It has a life span of approximately 14 months.

Shrews are active day and night, taking short periods of rest between relatively long bursts of activity.[4]

Territory

Common shrews are found throughout the woodlands, grasslands, and hedgelands of Britain, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. Each shrew establishes a home range of 370 to 630 m² (440 to 750 yd²). Males often extend the boundaries during the breeding season to find females. Shrews are extremely territorial and will aggressively defend their home ranges from other shrews. They make their nests underground or under dense vegetation.[5]

Diet

The common shrew's carnivorous and insectivorous diet consists of insects, slugs, spiders, worms, amphibians and small rodents. Shrews need to consume 200 to 300% of their body weight in food each day in order to survive. A shrew must eat every 2 to 3 hours to achieve this goal. A shrew will starve if it goes without food for more than a few hours. They do not hibernate in the winter because their bodies are too small to store sufficient fat reserves and as they have a short fasting duration.[4][6]

Common shrews have evolved an amazing adaptation to survive through the winter. Their skulls shrink by nearly 20% and their brains get smaller by as much as 30%. Their other organs also lose mass and their spines get shorter. Their total body mass drops by about 18% as a result. When spring arrives, they grow until they reach roughly their original size. Scientists believe that dropping temperatures trigger their bodies to breakdown bones and tissues and absorb them. As temperatures start to rise with the onset of spring, their bodies start to rebuild the lost bones and tissues. This significantly reduces their food requirements and increases their chances of survival in the winter.[7][8]

Shrews have poor eyesight and instead use their excellent senses of smell and hearing to find food.

Breeding

The common shrew breeding season lasts from April to September, but peaks during the summer months. After a gestation period of 24 to 25 days, a female gives birth to a litter of five to seven babies. A female rears two to four litters each year. The young are weaned and independent within 22 to 25 days.[9]

Young shrews often form a caravan behind their mother, each carrying the tail of its sibling in front with its mouth.

Chromosomal polymorphism

The chromosome number (karyotype) of Sorex araneus varies widely, with a number of distinct "chromosomal races" being present over the species' range.[2] One such race was described in 2002 as a new species, S. antinorii.[2] This an example of chromosomal polymorphism (chromosomal variability as a result of chromosome fusions or disassociations).[10][11]

Protection and population

 src=
Common & Eurasian pygmy shrews (genus Sorex), size comparison

The common shrew is not an endangered species, but in Great Britain it, like other shrews, is protected from certain methods of killing by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.[12]

In Britain, shrews can be found at densities of up to one per 200 m² (240 yd²) in woodlands. The main predators of shrews are owls, weasels, stoats, and red foxes.[5]

References

  1. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). "Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b c Hutterer, R.; Amori, G. & Kryštufek, B. (2008). "Sorex araneus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2011.old-form url
  3. ^ "Ireland's Pygmy Shrew, one of the world's smallest mammals, under threat from white-toothed invader". BirdWatch Ireland. 8 July 2014. Archived from the original on 12 July 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b Saarikko, Jarmo (1989). "Foraging behaviour of shrews". Annales Zoologici Fennici. 26 (4): 411–423. JSTOR 23734695.
  5. ^ a b British Wildlife. London: Collins. 2002. p. 402. ISBN 0-00-713716-8.
  6. ^ Churchfield, Sara; Rychlik, Leszek; Taylor, Jan R. E. (2012-10-01). "Food resources and foraging habits of the common shrew, Sorex araneus: does winter food shortage explain Dehnel's phenomenon?". Oikos. 121 (10): 1593–1602. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0706.2011.20462.x. ISSN 1600-0706.
  7. ^ Stetka, Bret. "Small-Minded Strategy: The Common Shrew Shrinks Its Head to Survive Winter". Scientific American. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  8. ^ Lázaro, Javier; Dechmann, Dina K.N.; LaPoint, Scott; Wikelski, Martin; Hertel, Moritz (2017-10-23). "Profound reversible seasonal changes of individual skull size in a mammal". Current Biology. 27 (20): R1106–R1107. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.08.055. ISSN 0960-9822. PMID 29065289.
  9. ^ "BBC Science and Nature: Animals". Retrieved 11 September 2009.
  10. ^ Polymorphism: when two or more clearly different phenotypes exist in the same interbreeding population of a species. Ford E.B. 1975. Ecological genetics, 4th ed.
  11. ^ White M.J.D. 1973. The chromosomes. Chapman & Hall, London. p169
  12. ^ Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 S11, Sch 6

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Common shrew: Brief Summary

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The common shrew (Sorex araneus), also known as the Eurasian shrew, is the most common shrew, and one of the most common mammals, throughout Northern Europe, including Great Britain, but excluding Ireland. It is 55 to 82 millimetres (2.2 to 3.2 in) long and weighs 5 to 12 grams (0.2 to 0.4 oz), and has velvety dark brown fur with a pale underside. Juvenile shrews have lighter fur until their first moult. The common shrew has small eyes, a pointed, mobile snout and red-tipped teeth. It has a life span of approximately 14 months.

Shrews are active day and night, taking short periods of rest between relatively long bursts of activity.

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