Tuesday 18 June
African giant shrew (Crocidura olivieri)
African giant shrew fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
African giant shrew description
The aptly named African giant shrew is one of the largest shrews in the world (3). Like most shrews, it has a mouse- or rat-shaped body with a pointed snout, small, beady eyes and sharp, even-sized teeth (unlike rodents, which possess characteristic large incisors) (4). Most individuals are covered in short, brown fur, although colour can vary considerably, from black to grey or fawn (2). The fur on the back is a darker shade, while the underside is usually lighter (2). Until recently, the black forms were thought to be a different species, and even a different genus; however, recent DNA testing has shown both the black, brown and other forms to be of the same species (3). The African giant shrew has a long tail, sometimes measuring as much as 50 percent of the body length (4), which is mostly hairless, with just a few long hairs along its length (2). Male and female African giant shrews are identical in appearance (4).Top
African giant shrew biology
A rarely studied species, relatively little is known about the habits of the African giant shrew. It is predominantly a carnivore, feeding on insects and other invertebrates such as slugs and snails. Like all shrews, it has a voracious appetite and fast metabolism, meaning it needs to eat a large amount every day. It alternates periods of activity and rest throughout the day and night (2), but is most active at dusk and dawn (4).
The African giant shrew is believed to be territorial and largely solitary (2), although mating pairs form during the summer months, from August to April (4). A litter of between one and seven naked and helpless young are born after a gestation period of 28 to 36 days (4). Like many other shrews, this species performs what is known as ‘caravanning’; if the nest becomes unsafe or is disturbed, the mother will move the young to a different location by means of a walking ‘caravan’, with the mother at the front and the young following, each gripping onto the fur of the one in front with its teeth (4). There is no reliable data on life expectancy, but an individual from this genus lived for four years in captivity (5).Top
African giant shrew range
In sub-Saharan Africa, the African giant shrew is a very common mammal, with a range stretching from the east to west coasts of the continent (1). The shrew’s range reaches as far south as Botswana and as far north as Mali, although there is also a separate, unconnected population further north, along the Nile Valley in Egypt (1).Top
African giant shrew habitat
The African giant shrew is adapted to a wide variety of habitats, such as savanna, steppe, woodland and marsh (3). In southern parts of its range, and in the separate population along the Nile Valley, the African giant shrew is generally found in moist habitats, such as streams, and human-created environments, such as canal embankments, fields and gardens (1).This species has been recorded at altitudes of up to 2,680 metres (in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda) (1).Top
African giant shrew status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
African giant shrew threats
As with many animals, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are considered to be the main threats to the African giant shrew, although the precise effects on shrew populations long-term remains unclear (6). Loss of prey, as a result of habitat loss, is also an issue. Like similar species of shrew, the African giant shrew is thought to be affected by pesticides in agricultural areas, either through direct contact or by consuming contaminated food (7).Top
African giant shrew conservation
As the African giant shrew is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1), there are no known conservation measures currently in place for this species. However, the African giant shrewhas been recorded in many protected areas, including the national parks of Bwindi-Impenetrable, Rwenzori, and Mgahinga in Uganda and the Kibira National Park in Burundi (1).Top
Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.
- An organism that feeds on flesh.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms, and spiders.
- The total of all the chemical reactions that take place in an organism, in order to produce energy and the basic materials needed for important life processes. The speed at which an organism carries out these processes is called its metabolic rate.
- Natural grassland with low rainfall. In Africa this lies in the transition zone between savanna and severe desert.
- An animal that occupies and defends an area.
IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
- Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (2001) Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Dubeya, S., Antonina, M., Denys, C. and Vogela, P. (2007) Use of phylogeny to resolve the taxonomy of the widespread and highly polymorphic African giant shrews (Crocidura olivieri group, Crocidurinae, Mammalia). Zoology, 110: 48-57.
- Mills, G. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Mortelliti, A. and Boitani, L. (2009) Distribution and coexistence of shrews in patchy landscapes: A field test of multiple hypotheses. Acta Oecologica, 35: 797–804.
- Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.