Friday, February 01, 2008

Elephantine elephant shrew discovered

There is an exciting new mammal species in the news this week: the gray-faced sengi (Rhyncocyon udzungwensis). This is a record-setting animal, it is the largest known species of shrew, weighing in at a hefty 700 grams (about 1.5 pounds), 50% more than the next largest species.

Elephant shrews are extremely fascinating animals, and the name of the group is relevant to both a misconception and a surprising taxonomic truth about them. In spite of their small furry body form, they are actually more closely related to true elephants than they are to the North American shrews that we know and love. Elephant shrews, along with tenrecs, manatees, elephants, hyraxes, aardvarks, and golden moles, are members of the superorder Afrotheria, which is a mammalian clade distinct from the one that brought us the soricid shrews.

Pondering Pikaia: Elephantine elephant shrew discovered



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