Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Sengis are monogamous and mate for life (3). Pairs occupy home ranges, which they defend against intruders although individuals spend the majority of their time alone within this area (4). They are diurnal, spending the night asleep in a nest constructed from leaf litter on the forest floor; carefully choosing from about six nests to ensure they remain undetected by predators (4). Mating occurs throughout the year and females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of around 42 days (3). After 2 weeks the young are fully weaned and will emerge from the nest to forage with their mother, although they are completely independent after a mere 5 days following emergence (3). These sengis forage for invertebrates such as earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders by searching through the leaf litter on the forest floor with their flexible nose (3). These small mammals must be constantly vigilant of predators such as harrier eagles (Circus sp.), and snakes, including black mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis) and forest cobras (Naja melanoleuca), and can run at speeds of up to 25 km per hour when trying to escape (4). Elephant-shrews will alert predators that they have been spotted and their cover blown by loudly slapping their tail on the forest floor (4).
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Description

This large elephant-shrew, or sengi (5), gains its common name for the distinctive golden coloured fur on its rump. In common with other elephant-shrews the snout is long, pointed and flexible (3), and the tail is almost naked (2). The coat is coarse but glossy and a dark reddish-brown colour apart from the yellowish/golden rump and a white tip to the tail (2). There is a 'dermal shield' of thickened skin under the sengi's rump patch that is 3 times thicker than the skin on the middle of the back (4). This shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to act as protection against the biting attacks of other males (3). The taxonomic relationship of this group has always been difficult to assess but elephant-shrews are not closely related to shrews, as their name would appear to suggest; recent molecular evidence places sengis (order Macroscelidea) in an ancient group of African mammals that also includes elephants, hyraxes and golden moles, amongst others (4).
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Distribution

Restricted to remaining pockets of suitable forest in coastal Kenya.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range

Found along the coast of Kenya from Mombassa to the Somali border (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Golden-rumped elephant shrews, like all elephant shrews, have a long, flexible snout. They are distinguished from other elephant shrews by their golden rump patch and grizzled gold forehead. There is an area of thickened skin (a dermal shield) under the rump patch. This dermal shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to provide protection from the biting attacks of hostile males. The feet, ears, and legs are black. The tail is black, execpt the distal 1/3 which is white with a black tip. The fur is fine, stiff and glossy; the ears are naked; the tail is sparsely furred. All elephant shrews are semi-digitigrade (i.e. they walk on their finger/toe-tips). Golden-rumped elephant shrews have sexually dimorphic canines (6.6mm in males; 4.6mm in females). It is thought that males use these canines in attacks on other males during territory defense. Measurements: Total Length: 526mm; Tail: 243mm; Hind Foot: 74mm; Ear: 34mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 540 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

Lives in moist, dense, coastal scrub forest and in lowland semi-deciduous forest along coastal Kenya.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

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Inhabits coastal regions and found in moist, dense scrub forest and lowland semi-deciduous forest (3).
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Trophic Strategy

Insectivorous. The elephant shrew uses its long, flexible nose to overturn leaf-litter where it finds and eats a wide variety of invertebrates including earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11 years (captivity) Observations: These animals have been reported to live up to 5 years in the wild (Ronald Nowak 1999). One captive specimen was at least 11 years old when it died (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrews breed throughout the year. Females give birth to a single young after a 42 day gestation period. Young remain in the nest for two weeks and emerge fully weaned. After emerging, the young follows its mother on her foraging runs but becomes completely independent after about 5 days. The young remains on its parents' home range until it defines its own range (5-20 weeks post emergence). Elephant shrews live an average of 4-5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

Average birth mass: 80 g.

Average gestation period: 42 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
38 days.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN: Vulnerable. The coastal forest where these animals live is being cleared for agriculture. They are protected in 44 hectares of the Gedi Historical Monument in Kenya.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN - B1+2c) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).
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Threats

Numbers of the golden-rumped elephant-shrew are severely threatened by habitat destruction along the Kenyan coast. Forests are being relentlessly cleared for farming, development and timber collection (4). Illegal trapping of these sengis for food also occurs, although current levels are thought to be sustainable (4).
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Management

Conservation

The golden-rumped sengi occurs mainly in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya (6), which receives a degree of protection from the Kenyan Wildlife Service (7).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

none

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Some northern Kenyans trap and eat Elephant Shrews.

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Wikipedia

Golden-rumped elephant shrew

The golden-rumped elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus) is the largest species in the African elephant shrew family. It is only found in the coastal Arabuko Sokoke National Park north of Mombasa in Kenya. Its name is derived from the conspicuous golden fur on its hindquarters, which contrasts strongly with its otherwise dark fur. On juveniles, the fur shows vestigial traces of the checkerboard pattern seen on another giant elephant shrew, the checkered elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon cirnei).

The golden-rumped elephant shrew lives on the forest floor of evergreen forests, rooting through the leaf litter for 80% of the waking day looking for grasshoppers, beetles, spiders and other small invertebrates.

The golden-rumped elephant shrew has evolved various strategies to avoid predators, particularly snakes (such as black mambas and cobras) and the southern banded snake-eagle. It is very fast, capable of running at 25 km/h. When it detects a predator within its escape distance, it will run. If, however, the predator is outside its escape distance, the elephant shrew will advertise its presence by slapping the leaf litter. This lets the predator know it has been seen. In the event of a chase or an ambush, the golden flash of fur will also often deflect the predator's attention away from the head and onto the rump, which has thickened skin. As a final precaution, each shrew maintains several nests.

The golden-rumped elephant shrew is classified as endangered because of its highly restricted and fragmented environment. It is also hunted for food by people and killed by feral dogs.

This species was identified as one of the top 10 "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). "Order Macroscelidea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ FitzGibbon, C. & G. Rathbun (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group). 2008. Rhynchocyon chrysopygus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 04 June 2013.
  3. ^ Protection for 'weirdest' species. BBC. January 16, 2007. Accessed June 4, 2013.

References[edit]

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