What do shrews eat?

In AnimalWised we want to present you this time an article about an interesting animal, shrews, mammalian animals that are among the smallest of their group. The largest species reaches about 15 centimeters, while the smallest among the 3 and 5 centimeters long. However, do not be fooled by their size, as these tiny animals are important predators within the ecosystems they inhabit..

Due to their resemblance, shrews are often related to rodents, like mice, however, they belong to the order Eulipotyphla, which they share with excesses, moles, gymnurs, solenodons and hedgehogs, with whom they are more closely related. If you are interested in knowing specifically about what do shrews eat, do not stop reading the next lines, where you will find valuable information about it.

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  1. Where do shrews live?
  2. Shrews characteristics
  3. What do shrews feed on?
  4. Curiosities about shrews and their diet

Where do shrews live?

Shrews have a preference for humid places with a lot of vegetation, since undoubtedly in these sites there are many more options for their varied diet. However, some species can inhabit desert and stony areas. In this sense, the ecosystems where we can locate shrews are:

  • Woods.
  • Prairies.
  • Dunes.
  • Mountainous areas.
  • River and lake boundaries.

More specifically, they can be located in different heights, ranging from sea level to approximately 2,000 meters. They live in several countries in the world, with the exception of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Antarctica. In America they are present in some areas.

Shrews characteristics

Shrews are pretty animals lonely and very territorial. However, during winter and at the time of reproduction, they can share their nests, which they dig underground, although they also occupy caves abandoned by other animals. Females only accept one male for reproduction, but they can be with more than one female at a time.

Shrews, on the other hand, boast such a high metabolic rate, so they go through most of the day active, having short periods of sleep In winter they do not hibernate, however, some species may have some periods of lethargy.

To be able to orient themselves throughout the day, some species of shrews have the ability to use echolocation (system like the one used by bats), which consists of emitting ultrasound, in order to recognize the area in which they are.

On the other hand, this group has a fairly effective strategy to avoid possible predators, and it is the presence of odoriferous glands that make them produce a quite unpleasant smell, so they are not palatable to carnivores with a good sense of smell. However, they can be preyed upon by animals with a poor olfactory sense, as is the case with some birds..

What do shrews feed on?

Shrews have a voracious appetite. Therefore, especially in winter times, shrews need to have food constantly available, since it is not enough with the animals that they consume when they hunt. That is why shrews they store food in their burrows, which they hide very well from other predators, and they eat food every 2 hours throughout the day.

The following is a list containing the types of food that can be consumed by the various species of shrews, which, although they preferentially eat animals, also feed on plant products, therefore, they are considered omnivorous animals:

  • Ants.
  • Termites.
  • Beetles.
  • Crickets.
  • Worms.
  • Larvae.
  • Spiders.
  • Lizards.
  • Snakes.
  • Annelids.
  • Frogs.
  • Rodents.
  • Oligochaetes.
  • Chilopods.
  • Snails.
  • Fish.
  • Birds.
  • Amphipods.
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.

In captivity, it has been shown that these animals find it difficult to consume food that is in large pieces, so they must be supplied in small pieces.

Curiosities about shrews and their diet

There are species of shrews capable of produce toxic substances that mix with your saliva. Such is the case of the American short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicaud), which has submandibular glands where saliva is produced together with the toxic compound. The fossil record also shows other species of poisonous shrews that have become extinct, such as the species Beremendia fissidens.

Now, about this peculiarity of producing venom (a very rare trait in this class of vertebrates), scientists have two positions on the matter that are linked to the topic of feeding shrews:

  • To paralyze the victim: On the one hand, it is suggested that due to their need to consume large amounts of food, the poison (a neurotoxic substance) does not kill the prey but it does paralyze it, so it is used to keep the immobile animals.
  • To defend: the other approach is linked to an evolutionary strategy of the group, which it uses to face much larger animals, which requires a greater effort and expenditure of energy. Thus, by biting and injecting the neurotoxic venom, its prey would be defenseless despite being larger than the shrew.

One aspect that is clear is aggressiveness with which these animals can attack when hunting. In fact, his teeth are vital weapons for these moments. Eventually shrews can lose some of their teeth. When this happens, they die in a short time due to the inability to feed according to their requirements..

The animal world never ceases to amaze us, the size and appearance of a species is not always indicative of what they are capable of doing, as exemplified in the case of the shrew, which although small and fragile and harmless in appearance, attacks their prey in a fierce way, being among the most active mammals on the planet.

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