Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Tenrecs are endemic to Madagascar. These unusual insectivores form a rather diverse. Tenrecinae resemble a cross between a shrew and a hedgehog: their snouts are long and pointed, while the coat exhibits spines. The Lowland streaked tenrecs are distinguished by two main features: the first is a rather long, black colored nose, which is longer than that of other small sized insectivores, including hedgehogs, mice and shrews; the other feature is black colored coat, displaying yellow stripes and bright yellow spine crests, located over the top of their head and acting as a mean of self-defense against predators.
The natural range of these animals covers the eastern parts of Madagascar, where they inhabit scrubland as well as lowland and mid-altitude rainforests.
Habits and lifestyle
The Lowland streaked tenrec is the only sociable tenrec species, gathering into groups. Groups of these tenrecs are family units, consisting of up to 20 animals. These diurnal animals can forage both solitarily and in small groups. During the winter months (May-October) they conserve heat by reducing their body temperature to that of the air, meanwhile remaining active. However, when it gets too cold, they usually undergo periods of hibernation. Nesting sites of lowland tenrecs are located near water, in fixed burrows. Their latrine sites are hidden in leaves and are typically situated near the entrance of the nest. Members of a group dig burrows, which are connected between each other, forming a complex burrow system, belonging to one group. Group members communicate through stridulating special quills. When threatened, tenrecs raise the quills, surrounding their neck. If threatened, they usually try to prickle the opponent with their quills, accompanying it with violent bucking of their head.
Diet and nutrition
The diet of these vermivorous or worm-eating animals primarily consists of earthworms, supplemented with various insects.
Little is known about the reproductive system of this species. It's known that, during the mating season, males compete with each other, engaging in fights in order to attract the attention of receptive females. Lowland tenrecs mate in September-December. Gestation period lasts for 55 - 63 days, yielding 2 - 11 young with an average of 5 - 8 per litter. Male Lowland tenrecs are careful to young. Weaning occurs at 18 - 25 days old. Females of this species reach sexual maturity as early as 25 days old, being the only tenrecs that begin breeding during the same season in which they were born.
Along with many other animals in Madagascar, these tenrecs are primarily threatened by loss of their natural habitat as a result of continuous deforestation. In addition, this species is hunted for food.
According to IUCN, the Lowland streaked tenrec is very abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Current population trend of this species is unknown, they classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Feeding upon worms, Lowland streaked tenrecs control populations of these invertebrates, thus playing an important role in the ecosystem of their habitat.
Fun facts for kids
- When spotting a predator, these animals emit ‘crunch’ and ‘putt-putt’ sounds, while the long hairs on their back become stiff, raising and prickling the opponent. And when the predator retreats, the tenrec takes its chance to quickly flee.
- Newborn Lowland tenrecs lack spines, starting to develop them during the first day after birth.
- The streaked tenrec is the only mammal species, practicing stridulation - this is when an animal rubs together parts of its body to give out sound. This technique is more common for insects and snakes. For example, when a baby tenrec loses its mother, it will rub its spines together, emitting a specific noise, which will help the young find its mother.
- Along with stridulation, these animals communicate through tongue-clicking to turn away intruders. It's also possible that they use echolocation, but this supposition is not proven yet.
- When someone touches the Lowland streaked tenrec, this animal can slightly bounce, thrusting its quills into the intruder.
- As opposed to the sharp and solid quills on the back, the underbelly of this animal is very soft.
- Yellow quills on the Lowland streaked tenrec's head form a crown. In order to turn away intruders, the animal raises the quills. When threatened, it fiercely attacks the opponent with its head-butt.
- This species is closely related to the highland streaked tenrec, inhabiting the central upland parts of Madagascar.