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Large-eared tenrec (Geogale aurita)The large-eared tenrec lives in north-western, western, southwest and southern Madagascar; its easternmost occurrence is from south-eastern Madagascar (1). It is widely distributed in subtropical and tropical dry, deciduous forest, rain, scrub and gallery forests and spiny bush. It has been captured in open savanna (many kilometres from forests) and could be reliant on termite mounds, even if there is no forest. It is adaptable to some habitat disturbance. It is not known from many sites, but probably occurs in appropriate habitat in between the known localities.
The large-eared tenrec is among the smallest living tenrecs, ranging from 5.0-8.5 g with a head and body length of 60-75 mm and a tail of about 30 mm. This shrew-like tenrec has a very short, soft pelage, a hair-covered tail and large pinnae. The dorsal coloration ranges from light grey to light reddish-brown. The ventral fur is buffy white. The dental formula is 2/2 1/1 3/2 3/3 = 34, while most tenrecs have 36 teeth. The male's testes are abdominal.
This tenrec is terrestrial and nocturnal. Body temperatures parallel the surrounding temperature at all times of year. A low metabolic rate is correlated with this relatively low body temperature. It undergoes daily and seasonal torpor and is not active during the austral winter. Body temperatures higher than ambient temperature occur in pregnant and lactating females. It is a specialized insectivore. It locates termites and other arthropods by using auditory and olfactory senses. Predators include barn and Madagascar long-eared owls, Malagasy cat-eye snakes and Malagasy narrow-striped mongooses. Most tenrecs are solitary, but some species seem to form stable long-term bonds between males and females, indicating that they may mate monogamously. Tactile communication is important between mates and between mothers and their young in the large-eared tenrec. Mating occurs place from late September to March. As this animal has a post-partum estrus, it can produce multiple litters. A female can suckle a first litter while a second litter develops in utero. Coital lock occurs during copulation and can last over 20 minutes. The tenrec can arrest the development of litters, so the gestation period varies from 54-69 days. Litter size varies from 1- 5 and the weights of the neonates range from 0.5-0.8 g. The offspring are altricial and are born with closed eyes and ears. Females provide extensive maternal care and probably protect, groom and shelter the young until they are weaned and can care for themselves. The young are weaned soon after the eyes open after 21-33 days of age. Captives may live more than 2.5 years (3). The IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group - Tenrec Section (2) lists the species as Least Concern, due to its relatively wide distribution, its presumed large population and as it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category. As it is dependent on forest habitats, its distribution may decrease with increasing loss of suitable habitats (2). Other threats are indirect effects due to increased use of pesticides that affect termites. This species is rarely found, but is common in owl pellets at some sites. It was previously thought to be dependent on forest, but also lives in grasslands, so habitat loss may be less a factor than was thought. This species has been recorded from over five protected areas including Ankarafantsika, Andohahaela and Zombitse National Parks, Beza-Mahafaly Special Reserve, and Tsimanampetsotsa RNI. It has also been found in the private concession of Kirindy CFPF. Habitats populated by large-eared tenrecs are not densely populated by humans, so there are no known specific economic influence on human societies.