The Etruscan shrew is the smallest known mammal by mass. It weighs only around 1.8 grams (0.063 oz) on average. The Etruscan shrew is characterized by very rapid movements and a fast metabolism, eating about 1.5-2 times its own body weight per day. The head of these small animals is relatively large, with a long, mobile proboscis, and the hind limbs are relatively small. The ears are relatively large and protuberant. The fur color on the back and sides are pale brown but is light gray on the stomach. The fur becomes denser and thicker from fall through the winter. Near the mouth grow a dense array of short whiskers, which shrews actively use to search for prey, especially in the night.
Etruscan shrews occur from Europe and North Africa up to Malaysia. They are also found in the Maltese islands, situated in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. These small animals favor warm and damp habitats covered with shrubs, which they use to hide from predators. Areas, where open terrain such as grasslands and scrub meet deciduous forests, are usually inhabited. They can be found at sea level but is usually confined to the foothills and lower belts of mountain ranges. Etruscan shrews colonize riparian thickets along the banks of lakes and rivers, as well as human-cultivated areas (abandoned gardens, orchards, vineyards, olive groves and edges of fields). They are poorly adapted to digging burrows, so arrange their nests in various natural shelters, crevices and others' uninhabited burrows. They frequent rocks, boulders, stone walls, and ruins, darting quickly in and out between them.
Etruscan shrews are solitary and territorial animals. They live alone, except during mating periods. They protect their territories by making chirping noises and signs of aggressiveness. Etruscan shrews tend to groom themselves constantly when not eating, and are always moving when awake and not hiding. The hiding periods are short and typically last less than half an hour. Clicking sounds are heard when these animals are moving, which cease when they rest. Etruscan shrews are more active during the night when they make long trips; during the day, they stay near the nest or in a hiding place. When hunting, Etruscan shrews mostly rely on their sense of touch rather than vision, and may even run into their food at night. In cold seasons and during shortages of food, these animals lower their body temperatures down and enter a state of temporary hibernation (torpor) to reduce energy consumption.
Etruscan shrews are omnivores. They feed mostly on various invertebrates, including insects, larvae, and earthworms, as well as the young of amphibians, lizards, and rodents, and can hunt prey of nearly the same body size as themselves.
Little is known about the mating system in Etruscan shrews. They usually breed from March to October, though females can be pregnant at any time of the year. Pairs usually form in the spring and may tolerate each other and their young for some time at the nest. The gestation period lasts around 27-28 days, and 2-6 babies per litter are born. Shrewlets are born naked and blind, weighing only 0.2 g (0.0071 oz). After their eyes open at 14 to 16 days old, they mature quickly. The mother usually moves the young when they are 9 to 10 days old and if disturbed leads them by caravanning them to a new location. The young Etruscan shrews are weaned at 20 days old. By 3 to 4 weeks of age, the young are independent and are soon reproductively mature.
The largest threat to Etruscan shrews originates from human activities, particularly the destruction of their nesting grounds and habitats as a result of farming. Etruscan shrews are also sensitive to weather changes, such as cold winters and dry periods.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Etruscan shrew total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Etruscan shrews probably play an important role in controlling insect populations due to their diet. They are also food for local predators such as birds of prey and especially owls.