Northern tree shrew
The Northern treeshrew is a brown colored mammal with short, furless ears and a large, wet nose. By its appearance, the Northern treeshrew reminds “Scrat” from the movie Ice Age. This animal is very similar to long nosed squirrels as well as some of the earliest mammals. Its eyes are large, dark and lashless. The Northern treeshrews exhibit short and inconspicuous whiskers. Their long, bushy tail is curved upwards. These animals are excellent climbers due to the sharp nails and naked pads on their feet.
This species has a rather large natural range across south-eastern Asia, stretching from India and southwestern China to Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines. The Northern treeshrews generally occupy moist, tropical and subtropical forests, although they can also occur in scrublands as well as oil palm and coconut plantations.
Habits and lifestyle
In spite of the common name of this species, the Northern treeshrews are more terrestrial than arboreal. The life of these animals is full of dangers. Although generally diurnal, the Northern treeshrews are practically active during both day and night. They usually forage and rest once every hour during the 24-hour day. The Northern treeshrews escape predators due to using different routes and always being on the move. They have a monogamous mating system, where each of the mates has its own territory, defending it from individuals of its gender. Mates have overlapping home ranges. The Northern treeshrews are extremely nervous and aggressive, meanwhile curious creatures.
Diet and nutrition
As omnivorous animals, the Northern tree shrews feed upon a wide variety of food, although their diet generally consists of insects and fruits, being supplemented by occasional vegetation.
As monogamous animals, the Northern tree shrews form long-lasting relationships, mating for life. Instead of having a specific mating season, these animals breed throughout the year. Gestation period lasts for 41 - 45 days, yielding 1 - 5 hairless babies. Although the young are born altricial and with closed eyes and ears, the female gives birth and raise its offspring in a separate nest, where the babies live alone. The mother lives in a different nest, making short visits of a few minutes to nurse her young. The ears open at 10 days old, while the eyes open at 20 days of age. During the first 35 days of their lives, young tree shrews feed upon maternal milk, after which they are weaned. The age of sexual maturity is 2 months old, although most young leave their mother at 50 - 60 days old. These animals are able to produce offspring of their own at 4 - 5 months old.
A fairly common and abundant species, the Northern tree shrews are not presently threatened.
According to IUCN, the Northern tree shrew is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers remain stable.
Due to consuming fruits of some fruit bearing trees, the Northern tree shrews act as key seed dispersers of these plant species.
Fun facts for kids
- The communication system of these animals includes 8 vocalizations, 4 of which have to do with alarm, attention, contact, and defense.
- The brain/body mass ratio of treeshrews in higher than that of any living animal, including humans.
- Newborn babies live alone in a separate nest for about a month, during which the mother visits to nurse them every two days for short periods of 2 hours at a time.
- The scientific name of this species is ‘Tupaia’, meaning 'squirrel' in the Malay language.
- Tree shrews require a constant source of water, since these animals don't get sufficient moisture from their food and cannot survive without water more than one day.