The Common shrews (otherwise known as Eurasian shrew) exhibit a 3-toned, beige colored coat, which is dark brown on their back and head and lighter orange-brown on their sides. These unique animals are distinguished by red-tipped teeth. The tail of these mammals is at least half the length of their body and extremely thick, even thicker than their limbs. The animal is also among the most frequently found mammals in Northern Europe and Great Britain but doesn't occur in Ireland.
As the name suggests, the Common shrew is truly the most abundant species of its family, occurring throughout Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Great Britain. Preferred types of habitat of this animal are woodlands, grassland, dunes, scree, heath as well as hedgerows. Overall, the Common shrew inhabits various environments up to the limit of the summer snow line.
Habits and lifestyle
The Common shrew is a solitary creature. This animal will fiercely defend its home range against outsiders. Although generally nocturnal, the Common shrew can be active during both day and night. It usually has alternating periods of rest and activity during the 24-hour day. Each period of activity lasts for 1 - 2 hours on average, after which the shrew will rest, generally in its nest. However, this animal can take a nap wherever it find suitable. When looking for food on the ground, it explores and sniffs the area with its snout and whiskers while giving out a characteristic high-pitched sound. Being a very small mammal, it cannot store enough winter fat and hence, doesn't undergo hibernation. The Common shrew is known to create system of runways in the vegetation. This animal may either dig a burrow or simply use one, abandoned by another small mammal.
Diet and nutrition
The Common shrews are carnivores, their diet is generally composed of earthworms, spiders, slugs, insect larvae, beetles and other invertebrates, supplemented with small vertebrates and occasional carrion.
The Common shrews are polyandrous animals, which means that one female mates with multiple males. They usually mate from April to August. Females may yield up to 4 litters per year, although they generally produce 1 - 2. About 6 - 7 babies are born after 19 - 21 days of gestation. As a result of their reproductive system, young from one litter may have 2 - 3 different fathers. Newborn shrews start venturing from the nest at 16 days old. During this period, they are known to follow their mother, forming a 'caravan'. This often happens, when their nest is disturbed. When moving around in a caravan, one of the babies holds its mother's tail while each baby grabs the tail of the one in front of it. Weaning occurs after 26 - 30 days old. The age of reproductive maturity is 9 - 10 months old.
The primary threats to the population of this species are pollution, use of agricultural pesticides as well as modification in farming practices.
According to IUCN, the Common shrew is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. According to the People’s Trust for Endangered Species recourse, the UK population of this species is 41,700,000 individuals. Overall, Common shrews’ numbers are stable today, and the animals are currently classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- When looking for food, these animals are able to detect prey as deep as 12 cm beneath the ground.
- Shrews of the genus ‘Sorex’ can give out an ultrasound that serves as echolocation, helping them navigate their environment.
- The temperature of their body is directly related to their feeding frequency. Hence, the Common shrews usually eat once every 2 hours, in order to maintain favorable body temperature.
- The teeth of these animals don't grow continuously during their lives, as opposed to the gnawing incisors of rodents
- Shrews are known for their good appetites. A single individual will consume as much as 80 - 90% of its body weight per day.
- Shrews are currently the fourth most successful family of mammals around the globe.
- These animals have an extremely fast heart rate of up to 700 beats per minute.
- Due to the poorly-developed sense of vision, shrews generally rely on smell and hearing to perceive their environment, find prey and escape threats. Species of this family are highly intelligent mammals with a brain, weighing as much as 10% of their entire body weight.