North American least shrew

North American least shrew

North American least shrew

2 languages
Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Cryptotis parva
Weight
3-6 g
Length
70-92 mm

The North American least shrew (Cryptotis parvus ) is one of the smallest mammals, growing to be only up to 3 inches long. It has a long pointed snout and a tail never more than twice the length of its hind foot. The dense fur coat is either grayish-brown or reddish-brown with a white belly. Its fur becomes lighter in the summer and darker in the winter. Although similar in appearance to several species of rodents, all shrews are members of the order Eulipotyphla and should not be mistaken for a member of the order Rodentia. The North American least shrew's eyes are small and its ears are completely concealed within its short fur, giving it very poor eyesight and hearing.

No

Nocturnal

Ca

Carnivore

In

Insectivores

Fo

Fossorial

Te

Terrestrial

Co

Cooperative breeder

Po

Polyandry

Po

Polygamy

Co

Colonial

Do

Dominance hierarchy

So

Social

No

Not a migrant

N

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Biogeographical realms

It is found from the grasslands of southern Canada through the eastern and central United States and Mexico. In Canada, only a small population of this animal has been found at Long Point in Ontario.

Show More

The North American least shrew mostly dwells in mesic grasslands, marshes, and meadows. Most shrews prefer these wet habitats, but the least shrew will also inhabit dry upland regions. This species can be found in meadows, fields, and weedy areas, where the vegetation attracts its insect diet.

Show Less
North American least shrew habitat map

Climate zones

North American least shrew habitat map
North American least shrew
Attribution-ShareAlike License

Habits and Lifestyle

This tiny shrew is active at all hours of the day, but mostly at night. Hunting by smell and touch, the North American least shrew digs through loose soil and leaf litter for its prey along the surface of the ground. The behavior of captive individuals suggests it can also tunnel through moist soil in search of food much like moles do. However, it mostly occupies burrows built by other mammals.

Show More

Its diet consists of mostly small invertebrates, such as caterpillars, beetle larvae, earthworms, centipedes, slugs, and sow bugs. It will also eat from the corpses of dead animals, and small amounts of seeds or fruits. This shrew will eat its prey whole, but when eating crickets and grasshoppers, the North American least shrew will bite off the head of its prey and eat only the internal organs. When fighting a larger creature, it will aim for the legs and try to cripple its adversary, and will bite lizards, which are often too large for it to kill, on the tail, which then falls off and provides it with a meal while the lizard escapes. The North American least shrew will also sometimes live inside beehives and eat all the larvae. It will often share its food with other shrews. It eats more than its body weight each day and is known to store food.

The North American least shrew makes its home in burrows or shallow runways under flat stones or fallen logs. Its burrows are about 2.5 cm in diameter, from 25 cm to 1.5 m long, and seldom more than 20 cm below the ground. Most shrews are aggressive towards each other, but this species is a social creature and often cooperates in digging its burrows and often sleeps with other shrews. From 2 to 31 of these shrews will live together at a time, although it is more common to find them together in the winter months to keep warm. It will line its burrows with leaves and grass in nests for the purpose of rearing offspring. The breeding season extends from early March to late November. Females produce two or more litters each season. Each litter will consist of about three to six young, each one weighing about 0.3 g, which grow quickly and will be adult size in about one month. Litters are born 21–23 days after copulation. When first born, young are deaf, blind, and hairless. At 14 days old, they will open their eyes and have fur. By day 21, they will weigh 4-5 g and weaning will begin. The North American least shrew rarely lives more than a year. Its natural predators are owls, hawks, the red fox, the raccoon, skunks, and snakes. The North American least shrew will try to defend itself with its venomous saliva.

Show Less
Seasonal behavior

Mating Habits

PREGNANCY DURATION
21 to 23 days
BABY CARRYING
2 to 7
INDEPENDENT AGE
20 to 30 days

Population

Population threats

The North American least shrew is listed as endangered in Connecticut and in Pennsylvania. The greatest threat to it is the development of coastal habitat, particularly dunes and marshes.

References

1. North American least shrew Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_least_shrew
2. North American least shrew on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41377/115182514

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About