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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The Southern Short-tailed Shrew is a highly active, primarily nocturnal predator. It is most common in moist, well-drained hardwood forests or pine stands, especially where deep organic litter provides easy burrowing for shelter and food. These shrews eat snails, butterfly and beetle larvae, ants, and small soil-living invertebrates. The Southern Short-tailed Shrew is preyed upon by many species, ranging from snakes to hawks to foxes and coyotes. Barn owls also eat these small animals, and regurgitate their skeletal and fur remains in the form of pellets; the pellets are a rich source of information for field biologists. This species is so similar to other short-tailed shrews that even experts cannot distinguish them easily, and must rely on a laboratory count of chromosomes to tell them apart.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
  • Original description: Bachman, J., 1837.  Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 7:366.
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Distribution

endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Current known distribution is from Virginia to southern Illinois, southward to eastern Texas (Baumgardner et al. 1992) and southern Florida (McCay 2001)..

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Range Description

This species current known distribution is from Virginia to southern Illinois, southward to eastern Texas (Baumgardner et al. 1992) and southern Florida in the United States (McCay 2001).
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Geographic Range

Southern short-tailed shrews inhabit the southeastern corner of the United States. They can be found as far north as southern Illinois and south-central Virginia and as far south as central Florida.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Whitaker Jr, J., W. Hamilton Jr. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Geographic Range

Blarina carolinensis inhabits the southeastern corner of the United States (Wilson and Ruff 1999). Populations can be found as far north as southern Illinois and south-central Virginia, and as far south as central Florida (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Southern short-tailed shrews are the smallest shrews of the genus Blarina. They are 75 to 105 mm in length, and the tail is an additional 17 to 30 mm. They weigh between 15 and 30 g. Their back is a grayish slate color, and their underside is a paler shade of gray. They have small eyes, a long, highly moveable nose, and small ears. Because other species of Blarina are found in different areas, southern short-tailed shrews are generally easy to identify in the field.

Range mass: 15 to 30 g.

Range length: 75 to 105 mm.

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition VII. Baltimore and London: The John's Hopkins University Press.
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Physical Description

Blarina carolinensis is the smallest species in the genus. Total length ranges from 75 to 105 millimeters. The tail length ranges from 17 to 30 millimeters. The range in weight is 15 to 30 grams (Nowak 1999). The dorsal pelage is slate colored while the ventral pelage is a paler shade of grey. They have small eyes, a long, highly moveable nose, and small ears (Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Species of Blarina exhibit little geographic overlap, so are usually distinguished from one another by where they occur. Blarina species differ in their number of chromosomes as well. Blarina carolinensis has 36-46 chromosomes, while Blarina brevicauda, found in northeastern North America, has 48 to 50 chromosomes, and Blarina hylophaga, found in the central United States, has 52 chromosomes (Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Range mass: 15 to 30 g.

Range length: 75 to 105 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 15 cm

Weight: 22 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: None

Length:
Average: 90 mm
Range: 72-107 mm

Weight:
Range: 5.5-13 g
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Diagnostic Description

A small BLARINA; usually distinguished by an occipito-premaxillary length < 20 millimeters and cranial breadth < 111.5 millimeters (McCay 2001). See Carraway (1995) for a key to western North American C soricids based primarily on dentaries.

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Various upland and wetland habitats, including moist deciduous woods, brushy areas, pine woodland and forest, mixed oak-pine-juniper woods, grassy situations, densely wooded floodplains. May favor areas with abundant leaf litter and fallen logs (Baumgardner et al. 1992). Nest sites are probably under logs, stumps and other debris.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in various upland and wetland habitats, including moist deciduous woods, brushy areas, pine woodland and forest, mixed oak-pine-juniper woods, grassy situations, and densely wooded floodplains. It may favour areas with abundant leaf litter and fallen logs (Baumgardner et al. 1992). Nest sites are probably under logs, stumps and other debris. Breeding season is from spring to late summer (as early as February in Texas). Gestation lasts probably between 21-30 days. Litter size is five to seven, with two to three or more litters per year. Few live as long as two years.

Average home range size is 0.96 hectares (n=7); maximum movement of 603 meters (Faust et al. 1971). Multiple individuals may use a common burrow system. The southern short-tailed shrew will eat small vertebrates as well as large numbers of invertebrates (which may be immobilized by toxic saliva), and some vegetable matter. May cache some food (e.g., snails) for later use.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Southern short-tailed shrews are most commonly found in moist, well-drained habitats containing woody vegetation. The well-drained soil allows this species to burrow underground and construct nests. Nests are located either underground or beneath decomposing logs or stumps and are composed of shredded grass, roots, dry leaves, and other vegetable material.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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This species of shrew is most commonly found in moist, well-drained habitats containing woody vegetation (Wilson and Ruff 1999). The well-drained soil allows Blarina carolinensis to burrow underground and construct nests.

The nest (located either underground or beneath decomposing logs or stumps) is composed of shredded grass, roots, dry leaves, and other vegetable material (Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Small vertebrates as well as large numbers of invertebrates (which may be immobilized by toxic saliva), and some vegetable matter. May cache some food (e.g., snails) for later use.

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Food Habits

Southern short-tailed shrews are primarily carnivorous, though they may also eat plant matter like berries. Their diet is composed mainly of soil invertebrates, including earthworms and centipedes. They feed throughout the day but are most active at night and in the early morning and early evening hour.

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Food Habits

Southern short-tailed shrews are primarily carnivorous, though some vegetable matter may be taken (Nowak 1999). Their diet is composed mainly of soil invertebrates. They feed throughout the day but are most active at night and in the early morning and early evening hours (Nowak 1999). Earthworms, centipedes, and berries are examples of this shrew's diet (Davis and Schmidly 1997).

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Southern short-tailed shrews are probably one of the most numerous mammalian members of their communities. They represent an important prey base for their predators and influence the composition of invertebrate communities through their own predation.

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Predation

Southern short-tailed shrews have a variety of predators. Their main predators include Accipitridae and Strigiformes, especially Tyto alba. Canis latrans, Vulpes vulpes, and large Serpentes are also known to prey on southern short-tailed shrews.

Known Predators:

  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • coyotes (Canis_latrans)
  • red fox (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • snakes (Serpentes)

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Ecosystem Roles

Southern short-tailed shrews are probably one of the most numerous mammalian members of their communities. They represent an important prey base for their predators and influence the composition of invertebrate communities through their own predation.

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Predation

Blarina carolinensis has a diverse group of predators. The most common are hawks and owls, especially barn owls (Tyto alba). Coyote, red fox, and large snakes are also known to prey on southern short-tailed shrews (Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Blarina carolinensis is prey of:
Strigiformes
Serpentes
Accipitridae
Canis latrans
Vulpes vulpes

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Blarina carolinensis preys on:
non-insect arthropods

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

Average home range size 0.96 hectares (n=7); maximum movement of 603 meters (Faust et al. 1971). Multiple individuals may use a common burrow system. Usually more abundant than other shrews in its range (McCay 2001). A population in South Carolina fluctuated dramatically between years; higher populations were correleated with moist summers and presumably higher invertebrate prey, and lower populations correlated with extended drought (Gentry et al. 1971, Smith et al. 1974).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Like all shrews, may be seen day and night.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Most southern short-tailed shrews live less than a year in the wild. Individuals in captivity have been recorded living up to 33 months.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
33 (high) months.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
1 (high) years.

  • George, S., J. Choate, H. Genoways. 1986. Blarina brevicauda. Mammalian Species, 261: 9.
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Lifespan/Longevity

George et. al (1986) recorded the lifespan of most wild individuals to be no longer than a year. Individuals in captivity have been recorded as living up to 33 months.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
33 (high) months.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
1 (high) years.

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Reproduction

Breeding season: spring-late summer (as early as February in Texas). Gestation lasts probably 21-30 days. Litter size: 5-7, with 2-3 or more litters per year. Few live as long as 2 years.

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Little is known of mating behavior of southern short-tailed shrews.

Southern short-tailed shrews breed twice a year, once between March and June and again between September and November. Gestation ranges between 21 and 30 days. Litter size is 2 to 6 individuals. Young southern short-tailed shrews weigh about 1 g at birth. Females reach sexual maturity at about 6 weeks of age, while males become sexually mature at around 12 weeks of age.

Breeding interval: Southern short-tailed shrews breed twice a year.

Breeding season: March to June and September to November.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.

Range gestation period: 21 to 30 days.

Range weaning age: 18 to 21 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 12 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 12 weeks.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Young southern short-tailed shrews are born naked and unable to see. They are cared for and nursed by their mother in her nest. After 18 to 20 days, the young begin to venture from the nest and are weaned shortly after that.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition VII. Baltimore and London: The John's Hopkins University Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Banfield, A. 1974. The Mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Davis, W., D. Schmidly. 1997. "The Mammals of Texas-Online Edition" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/blarcaro.htm.
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Little is known of mating behavior in southern short-tailed shrews.

Southern short-tailed shrews breed twice a year (Wilson and Ruff 1999). The first period of reproduction is between the months of March and June. A peak in breeding activity is reached during this period in April. The second period is between September and November, with a peak in activity reached during October. Gestation ranges between 21 and 30 days. Litter size is 2 to 6 individuals. Once born, the young weigh about one gram. Females reach sexual maturity at about six weeks of life, while males become sexually mature at around twelve weeks of age (Banfield 1974).

Breeding season: March to June and September to November.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 6.

Range gestation period: 21 to 30 days.

Range weaning age: 18 to 21 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 12 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 12 weeks.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Young are born naked and unable to see (Davis and Schmidly 1997). They are cared for and nursed by their mother in her nest. After 18-20 days of life the young begin to venture from the nest and are weaned shortly after that (Nowak 1999).

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Chanson, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because it is widespread, abundant and it is not currently in decline.
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Southern short-tailed shrews are abundant in suitable habitats throughout their range.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Southern short-tailed shrews are abundant in suitable habitats throughout their range.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
This species is common, and is usually more abundant than other shrews in its range (McCay 2001).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs in protected areas throughout its range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Southern short-tailed shrews, like their northern cousins, Blarina_brevicauda, may have toxins in their saliva (see Comments below). Bites may result in a painful burning sensation that can last some time.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Southern short-tailed shrews help control insect populations.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Southern short-tailed shrews, like their northern cousins, Blarina brevicauda, may have toxins in their saliva (see Comments below). Bites may result in a painful burning sensation that can last some time.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Southern short-tailed shrews are helpful to humans by controlling insect populations (Whitaker Jr and Hamilton Jr 1998).

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Wikipedia

Southern short-tailed shrew

The southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis) is a small, gray, short-tailed mammal that inhabits the eastern United States.[3] The overall appearance is somewhat like a rodent, but is a member of the order Soricomorpha and should not be confused with a member of the order Rodentia. This shrew has a long, pointed snout and ears that are nearly concealed by its soft, dense fur. This shrew is found in forests and meadows where food and cover are plentiful.

Its burrows are built in two layers, one near the surface, and a deeper one joined below it. The burrows are often built below logs, which can be penetrated and honeycombed if the log is rotten. The southern short-tailed shrew is a social animal; it has been known to share its burrow systems with several individuals. The male and female live together during the prebreeding season.

The southern short-tailed shrew's diet consists of insects, annelids, vegetable matter, centipedes, spiders, scorpions, mollusks, rodents and reptiles, and it has been known to store snails for the winter. The saliva is venomous and is injected into the wounds of its prey by the teeth. Its venom is strong enough to kill mice, but is not lethal to humans,though it causes severe pain.

The breeding season lasts from February to November, and females have two or three litters per year. The gestation period lasts from 21 to 30 days, and each litter consists of two to six young. The young are reared in nests of grasses and leaves by which entry is gained through a tunnel. These nests for the young are much larger than their resting nests.

Known predators include snakes, hawks, owls, foxes, weasels, skunks, and cats.

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Hammerson, G. (2008). "Blarina carolinensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Foust, Desirae. "Blarina carolinensis". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  • The Mammals of Texas Revised Edition by David J. Schmidly
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Blarina carolinensis formerly was regarded as conspecific with B. brevicauda; it was regarded as a distinct species by Jones et al. (1992) and Hutterer (in Wilson and Reeder 1993, 2005).

George et al. (1986) stated that Blarina carolinensis shermani may be an isolated subspecies or a distinct species. Given the extent of morphological differentiation and a paucity of possible hybrids with carolinensis, Benedict et al. (2006) recognized Blarina shermani as a distinct species.

Hutterer (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized Blarina peninsulae as a species distinct from B. carolinensis, based on distinct karyotype and distinct morphology (George et al. 1982, Genoways and Choate 1998) and presence of a contact zone between the two taxa (see Genoways and Benedict, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). However, a morphological study by Benedict et al. (2006) found that carolinensis and peninsulae are not well differentiated and show evidence of intergradation. Benedict et al. (2006) recommended that peninsulae be retained as a subspecies of Blarina carolinensis.

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