Flower's shrew (Crocidura floweri)

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Flower's shrew fact file

Flower's shrew description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderEulipotyphla
FamilySoricidae
GenusCrocidura (1)

Shrews (those belonging to the Soricidae family) are small, mouse-like mammals with short legs and long, pointed noses (4). Flower’s shrew has short, velvety, pinkish-brown fur on the body and a long, reddish-brown tail (3) (5). It can be reliably distinguished from other similar shrews by the greyish-white bristles on the half of the tail nearest the body (3). Flower’s shrew is a member of the ‘white-toothed shrews’ (genus Crocidura), which differ from their red-toothed relatives in that the outer layer of the teeth is white instead of red, due to a lack of iron deposited in the tooth enamel (6).

Size
Head-body length: 5.7 - 7.4 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 5.5 - 5.8 cm (2) (3)
Average weight: 3.5 g (3)
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Flower's shrew biology

Possessing an extremely high metabolism (3), shrews have to feed every two to three hours in order to meet the demands of this high energy requirement, and often eat more than their body weight in food every day (7). With a diet consisting mainly of invertebrates, such as insects and spiders (3), shrews frantically search for food both day and night, or else they can die of starvation in as little as four hours (3) (7). Shrews also perform the unusual practice of licking their rectums (the final part of the large intestine where the faeces are stored) to ensure that they obtain all the possible nutrients from their food which would otherwise be lost in the faeces (3). Another consequence of a shrew’s high metabolism and resultant active lifestyle is a rather short life span (3) (7); shrews rarely live longer than a year, making them the shortest lived mammals in the world (7). Shrews scare extremely easily, and when startled their heart rate can reach up to 1,200 beats per minute (4) which is over 16 times faster than the normal human heart rate. Shrews may also be so frightened by loud noises, such as thunder, that some individuals die of shock (4).

If shrew families have to move before the young are fully grown they do so by ‘caravanning’ (4) (7), whereby the immature shrews form a line behind the mother, with each one holding onto the hind end of the one in front with its teeth. The grip between individuals in the chain is so strong that if the mother is lifted off the ground then all of the family are lifted up too (7). Although thought to suffer relatively little predation because of noxious glands in the skin which make the flesh distasteful (3), Flower’s shrew may be preyed upon by some birds, such as the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) (3).

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Flower's shrew range

Found only in Egypt, Flower’s shrew has an extremely limited range (2). It has been recorded in the southern region of the Nile Delta, the Upper Nile Valley, El Giza, and Wadi El Natrun (a large oasis situated to the west of the Nile Delta) (1) (3).

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Flower's shrew habitat

The preferred habitat of Flower’s shrew remains relatively unknown because of a lack of records and the apparent rarity of the species. However, it is presumed to be similar to other shrews and as such it is thought to prefer moist habitats with dense vegetation (3). Such habitats are scarce in Egypt and are inevitably populated by humans, hence when Flower’s shrew has been found, it has been near human settlements such as agricultural areas and gardens (1) (3) (5).

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Flower's shrew status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient

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Flower's shrew threats

The construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt in 1971 has had a dramatic impact on the habitats surrounding the River Nile, completely ceasing the yearly flooding that the area previously experienced (8). Small mammals have been especially affected as this has had the adverse effect of increasing the pest rat population, with which they compete for resources (1). Therefore, it is highly probable that Flower’s shrew populations have been negatively affected; however, because of a lack of data on this species, the full extent of the impact remains unknown (1).

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Flower's shrew conservation

Currently, there are no known conservation measures in place to protect this species (1). A lack of data regarding any population trends means that it has not been possible to determine whether this species is threatened with extinction or not. It is thought that further research might confirm the restricted distribution of this species, thus making implementation of conservation measures more urgent (1).

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Authentication

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~plzfg/

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Genus
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.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms, and spiders.
Metabolism
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.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Osborn, D.J. and Helmy, I. (1980) The contemporary land mammals of Egypt (including Sinai). Fieldiana, 5: 76.
  3. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Egypt.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Basuony, M.I. (2000) Ecological Survey of Burullus Nature Protectorate: Mammals. Conservation of Wetland and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region. Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. Available at:
    http://vinc.s.free.fr/IMG/egybrsd_mammals.pdf
  6. Feldhamer, G.A., Drickamer, L.C., Vessey, S.H., Merritt, J.F. and Krajewski, C. (2007) Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  7. Carwadine, M. (2007) Animal Records. Natural History Museum, London.
  8. WWF (April, 2010)
    http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/pa/pa0904_full.html
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