Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec
Madagascar hedgehog tenrecs
The Lesser hedgehog tenrec is a shrew-like mammal, small with a long whiskered snout. Its back, sides and tail have dark brown to black, sharp, dense, white-tipped spikes. Its underside is paler and does not have spikes.
This hedgehog tenrec is native to southern and southwestern Madagascar, its natural habitats being tropical or subtropical dry forests, dry savanna, tropical or subtropical dry shrubland, and tropical or subtropical dry lowland grassland.
Habits and lifestyle
The Lesser hedgehog tenrec is mostly a solitary animal except during breeding or when rearing offspring. Nocturnal in the wild, in captivity they are often active day and night alike. Unlike their cousin hedgehogs, tenrecs are excellent climbers, and use their long toes to hold onto branches. They will roll into a tight ball with their spines sticking out when threatened. If the intruder does not move off, the animal will unroll and charge the offender with its teeth bared. During hot Madagascar summers when water and food are scarce, this species may go into a “summer sleep,” a temporary hibernation known as aestivation. In North America, for captive animals such hibernation takes place during winter and may be for up to four months.
Diet and nutrition
Lesser hedgehog tenrecs are omnivores, eating insects and their larvae, spiders, eggs, and occasionally fruit.
Little is known about the mating system of this species. Breeding typically occurs in September and October, and young are born fairly undeveloped. Gestation lasts about 49 days, and a litter is produced of between one and ten (usually five to seven). One or two litters each year may be produced, depending on the habitat’s conditions. The female looks after the young on her own, remaining nearby even after weaning at about one month old. Maturity is reached after their first cold season in torpor.
The Lesser hedgehog tenrec is stable throughout the majority of its range, though much of its habitat on Madagascar is threatened. Fires, human encroachment, overhunting and introduced species are all threats to their survival.
According to IUCN, Lesser hedgehog tenrec is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers remain stable.
Lesser hedgehog tenrecs may regulate populations of insects, due to their diet.
Fun facts for kids
- These animals have very small eyes, relying on their senses of hearing and smell for finding prey.
- The name of this species, ‘Echinops telfairi’, honors Charles Telfair, a British naturalist.
- Tenrecs differ from hedgehogs in that hedgehogs roll into a ball and hiss at potential predators, while tenrecs will unroll and attack and bite a persistently threatening predator.
- There are over 25 species of tenrecs, each adapted for living in water or trees or on the ground. Most of them live in Madagascar, with some on Comoro Islands and mainland Africa.
- Depending on the species, tenrecs have between 32 and 42 teeth.