Lowland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus)

Also known as: Streaked tenrec
GenusHemicentetes (1)
SizeLength: 16 – 19 cm (2)
Weight at birth: 8 g (6)
Weight90 – 220 g (5)

The lowland streaked tenrec is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

An extraordinary-looking family, the tenrecs exist only in Madagascar and have a greater diversity of form than any other family of insectivores. Members of the subfamily Tenrecinae look like a cross between a shrew and a hedgehog, with long, pointed snouts and spines amongst their fur. The lowland streaked tenrec is a medium-sized, slender tenrec, which closely resembles juvenile common tenrecs (Tenrecs ecaudatus) (3). It is blackish-brown with yellowish stripes running the length of the body and a yellowish band running from the crown to the tip of the snout. It has detachable, barbed spines which are most numerous on the crown. The underside is chestnut-brown with soft hairs (6).

This species is found only in eastern Madagascar (3).

Found in lowland and mid-altitude rainforests and scrubland (2).

Unusually for tenrecs, the lowland streaked tenrec is active both at night and during the day, and is the only species to form groups. It remains with its family, numbering up to 20 individuals in each burrow (2). They may forage together amongst the leaf litter for earthworms and other soft-bodied invertebrates, using their long snouts to delve into small spaces (5). During the winter (May to October), tenrecs can drop their body temperature to nearly that of the surroundings, but still remain active. This conserves energy, but in the coldest weather they must hibernate (6).

Nesting in burrows 1.5 metres long and 15 cm deep near a stream or water body, the lowland streaked tenrec covers the burrow entrance with leaves and often creates a latrine site nearby (3). Mating takes place between September and December, and young are born after a gestation of 55 – 63 days. The female gives birth to between two and eleven young, averaging six in each litter. Females are reproductively active at a young age, sometimes breeding at just five weeks (2).

Mothers and young communicate by stridulating – they vibrate specialized quills on their mid-dorsal region creating a low-pitched noise. These tenrecs also make ‘crunch’ and ‘putt-putt’ sounds, particularly when agitated. If threatened, this species will raise the spines around the neck and buck the head violently to attempt to lodge the barbed spines into the attacker (3).

Like many Madagascan species, the lowland streaked tenrec’s greatest threat is habitat loss, as deforestation continues across the island. All tenrec species are thought to be at risk from disturbance by tourists, reducing the value of protected areas (4).

The lowland streaked tenrec occurs in Ranomafana National Park as well as Analamazaotra Special Reserve (3). The survival of this species, as of many other Madagascan species, is linked to the conservation of Madagascan forest habitats. Many conservation projects focus on forest preservation, and their success will ultimately determine the fate of the lowland streaked tenrec.

For further information on tenrecs see: Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.

Authenticated (22/06/05) by Nick Garbutt, zoologist and author.

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2012)
  2. Animal Diversity Web (May, 2005)
  3. Garbutt, N. (2005) Pers. comm.
  4. Stony Brook University – Mammals of Ranomafana National Park (May, 2005)
  5. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  6. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.