Solenodon paradoxus can be found exclusively on the island of Hispaniola in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most specimens have been discovered in northern Hispaniola.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
Dominican Republic, Haiti
Solenodon paradoxus looks much like a shrew. However, it is considerably larger. A black to reddish-brown pelage covers the majority of the body, with the exception of the tail, feet, nose, and tips of the ears. The forelimbs are considerably more developed than the hindlegs, but all limbs have claws presumably for digging.
Its heads is large in proportion to its body and the rostrum is elongated. A defining characteristic of Solenodon paradoxus is the os proboscis, a bone (which supports a long cartilaginous snout) located on the tip of the rostrum. This species' dental formula is 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 40. The second lower incisor has a groove from which a venom is secreted from a mandibular gland.
Males of this species have an unexposed penis and testes residing deep within the abdominal cavity.
Range mass: 600 to 1000 g.
Range length: 0.28 to 0.33 m.
Average length: 0.31 m.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Solenodon paradoxus can be found in wooded and brushy areas, often near areas of agriculturally developed land. Because solenodons are nocturnal they find shelter during the day in tunnel systems that they construct by burrowing through organic material and soil. They also take refuge in hollowed logs and trees, caves, and cracks in rocks.
Habitat Regions: tropical
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Reports conflict on whether Solenodon paradoxus consumes vegetation, along with their standard diet of invertebrates. Walker's Mammals of the World states that members of the genus Solenodon feeds on various fruits and vegetables. However, a study conducted by Erna Mohr found that solenodons refused all forms of vegetation. From this study, a list of items included in the diet of members of the genus Solenodon's was compiled from fecal analysis (Fons, 1990). This list is shown below. Solenodon paradoxus collects food by digging extensive tunnel systems under the ground, then foraging for insects and other invertebrates from the surrounding soil.
Foods eaten include: millipedes (Iulides), ground beetles (Carabidae), various orthopteran insects (Gryllidae, Tettigoniidae, Blattidae), earthworms (Lumbricidae) and various types of snails.
Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore , Vermivore)
Because of the small numbers of Solenodon paradoxus, it barely contributes, if at all, to its ecosystem. If Solenodon paradoxus were present in greater numbers it might effect the populations of insects and other invertebrates that it preys upon. Furthermore, its extensive burrowing and tunneling might contribute to soil aeration.
Before the European colonization of Hispanolia, which has resulted in the introduction of several predators of solenodons the island, Solenodon paradoxus was one of the dominant predators on Hispaniola. In fact, to this day, it lacks any truly natural predators and does not possess many anti-predator adaptations. Solenodon paradoxus is described as a "slow mover" and a "clumsy runner with no agility in avoiding enemies and a poor means of defense" (International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974). It has been observed sitting still, with its head hidden, while predators are in pursuit.
- mongooses (Herpestes)
- domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
- domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
Canis lupus familiaris
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
There is very little information concerning the lifespan/longevity of Solenodon paradoxus. John F. Eisenberg cited a specimen that lived in captivity for 11 years and four months, the longest recorded lifespan of this species (Nowak, 1999).
Status: captivity: 11 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 11.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Little is known about the mating system and behavior of Solenodon paradoxus. Before mating, the female constructs a nest in which she will birth and nurse her young. It is known that females have an estrus period that irregular and not coordinated with the seasons. Males, in contrast can mate at any time. When first introduced to each other, solendons may engage in aggressive behavior, but it is unknown whether this is an attempt at sexual dominance.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Very little is known about the reproductive behavior of Solenodon paradoxus. This species breeds at an extremely slow rate, only twice per year. Newborns weigh from 40 to 55 grams and are 15.2 to 16.3 cm in length, with little hair and closed eyes (Fons, 1990). The information below was provided by Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction (Hayssen, et al, 1993).
Breeding interval: These solenodons breed twice yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding seasonality is unknown.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Average gestation period: >50 days.
Average weaning age: 75 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 100 g.
Average gestation period: 50 days.
Average number of offspring: 2.
The number of young that can survive is limited to the small number, two, of teats the female possesses. These are on her dorsal side, near the rump (International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 1974). Young are nursed for 13 weeks, at which time they begin to eat solid food. Solenodon paradoxus is born with only a minimal layer of hair, barely covering its body. A more dense coat fills in within 14 days. After 75 days, a young is no longer nursing and is eating solid food.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Endangered (EN)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
- 1982Endangered (E)
- 1965Less rare but believed to be threatened-requires watching
As late as the 1960's, Solenodon paradoxus was not considered to be in any danger of extinction. However, in more recent years, the decline of suitable forest habitat through deforestation, an increase of human activity in their habitat, and the introduction of new predators (domesticated canines and felines) have contributed to the enormous decrease this species' numbers.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Solenodon paradoxus , see its USFWS Species Profile
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Because of its small numbers, Solenodon paradoxus is incapable of causing any significant detriment to the human economy. When it was present in higher numbers, farmers reported destruction of crops as a result of solenodon activity. However, this crop destruction was incidental to the solenodon's predation on insects beneath the soil.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
The Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus), also known as the Dominican solenodon or agouta, is a solenodon found only on Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was first described by Brandt in 1833. A similar but smaller species, Marcano's solenodon (S. marcanoi), once lived on the island, but became extinct after European colonization. All solenodon species belong to order Soricomorpha and family Solenodontidae.
Description and behaviour
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (November 2011)|
The Hispaniolan solenodon looks much like an oversized shrew. It weighs 0.6–1.0 kg (1.3–2.2 lb). Head-and-body length is 28–33 cm (11–13 in) and the tail is about 25 cm. It has brownish-red fur on most of its body, with a paler underside. The tail, legs, snout, and eartips are hairless. The forelegs are noticeably more developed than the hind legs, but all have strong claws useful for digging.
The head is very big in relation to its body, with a long rostrum and tiny eyes and ears partially hidden by the body fur. A unique feature is the os proboscis, a bone on the tip of the rostrum that supports the snout cartilage. The dental formula for the species is 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 40. The second lower incisor has a narrow groove (Solenodon derives from the Greek for "grooved tooth"), through which flows a venomous saliva secreted by the submaxillary gland, making the solenodon one of only a handful of venomous mammals.
Both sexes are similar. Males have an unexposed penis and the testes are hidden deep within the abdominal cavity. Females have an irregular estrus, apparently unrelated to seasonal changes; they may have two litters of one to three young per year. Usually, only two of the offspring survive, because the female only has two teats, which are found near her buttocks. The young are weaned after 75 days, but may sometimes remain with the parents while subsequent litters are born and raised, so up to eight animals may share the same burrow. Solenodons may fight each other on first meeting, but eventually they establish a dominance relationship and live together in captivity in relative harmony.
A Hispaniolan solenodon has glands in the armpits and in the groin, which are said to give off a goat-like smell. It readily defends itself against one of its own kind and is apparently not immune to its own venom, since animals have been seen to die after fighting and sustaining minor wounds. It may also attack other animals savagely: a captive solenodon was reported to have attacked a young chicken and torn it to pieces with its strong claws before eating it. In moments of excitement, it may grunt like a pig or give bird-like cries, but when pursued, it stays motionless and hides its head, making it easy to capture.
The Hispaniolan solenodon was unknown to science for so long because it is nocturnal, a consequence of which is its highly developed senses of hearing, smell and touch. Also, they are not very numerous, so their influence in an ecosystem is practically nothing. During daylight hours, they stay in their burrows, trees, hollowed-out logs or caves, remaining hidden from view. When they do come out, they run on their toes with a stiff, ungainly waddle, following an erratic, almost zigzag course. The local people claim solenodons never run in a straight line. When a solenodon is alarmed and tries to move faster, it is very likely to trip.
Hispaniolan solenodons eat a wide variety of animals, including arthropods, worms, snails and small reptiles; they may also feed on roots, fruits and foliage, although one study found they refused all forms of vegetation. They probe the earth with their snouts and dig or rip open rotten logs with their claws. Solenodons in captivity have been seen to bathe often and to drink only when bathing.
Because of a lack of natural enemies, the Hispaniolan solenodon did not evolve defenses against predators, and it is a slow, clumsy runner. When feral dog and cat populations became established and small Asian mongooses (specifically Herpestes javanicus auropunctatus) were introduced to control rats in sugar cane fields, its future was jeopardized.
The Hispaniolan solenodon's habitat is usually wooded or brushy areas, frequently close to developed agricultural land, where they can dig their complex underground burrows. Habitat loss and predation by introduced species have contributed to making it an endangered species; its numbers have dropped dramatically during the last few decades. It was actually considered almost extinct until 1907, when it was found living in the interior of Hispaniola. It was not considered to be in immediate danger early in the 20th century. In 1966, it was found in several localities in the Dominican Republic. As of 1981, after extensive searching, the Hispaniolan solenodon was declared "functionally extinct"[clarification needed] in Haiti, persisting only in the remote mountains of the south. In 1987, it was still found in both countries, but was thought to be particularly threatened in Haiti. As of 1996, it could still be found in both countries. Wildlife filmmaker Jürgen Hoppe has been able to film the Hispaniolan solenodon in various parts of the Dominican Republic during the last 18 years.[when?] The most recent sightings in the wild (with video evidence) were during the summer of 2008, when a team of researchers from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola were able to trap an individual specimen. The researchers took physical measurements and DNA from it before releasing it back into the wild.
The Hispaniolan solenodon appears to have a patchy distribution. Populations are found both within and outside protected areas such as the Jaragua, Del Este and Sierra de Baoruco National Parks. In Haiti, it is reported from La Visite National Park and the Duchity region of the Massif de la Hotte. Its presence in Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic is inferred but unconfirmed.
The Hispaniolan solenodon was identified as one of the top ten "focal species" in 2007 by the EDGE Species project. A collaborative conservation project funded by the Darwin Initiative (UK) was started in 2009 and is researching the species to conserve it.
The species is fully protected by law. However, national parks in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are threatened by deforestation and encroachment for farming and charcoal production. The US Agency for International Development and the Nature Conservancy are[when?] working with local nongovernmental organisations to improve protection and implement management plans for these parks (the "Parks in Peril" programme). A recovery plan for the isolated Haitian population, published in 1992, advocated comprehensive surveys, improved management of the Pic Macaya National Park, education campaigns, control of exotic mammals, and an ex situ breeding programme. These recommendations have not yet[when?] been implemented.
Two conservation research and education programmes funded by the Darwin Initiative have recently been established, focusing on solenodons in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti: "Building evidence and capacity to conserve Hispaniola's endemic land mammals" (started 2009), and "Building a future for Haiti's unique vertebrates" (started 2010). These collaborative projects represent a partnership between the EDGE programme, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, BirdLife International, the Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic National Zoo, Societe Audubon Haiti, and in-country project partners.
- Hutterer, R. (2005). "Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Turvey, S. & Incháustegui, S. (2008). "Solenodon paradoxus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- "Venomous mammal caught on camera". BBC. 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- Samuel T. Turvey, Helen M.R. Meredith and R. Paul Scofield (2008). Continued survival of Hispaniolan solenodon Solenodon paradoxus in Haiti. Oryx, 42 , pp 611-614. doi:10.1017/S0030605308001324
- "Protection for 'weirdest' species". BBC. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- "The Last Survivors project".
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