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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

"The Long-tailed Shrew probably uses its long tail for balance when it is climbing among the rocks or boulders that are always present where it lives. It spends almost all its time underground, and was, until recently, thought to be uncommon (not being where biologists set traps). Its particularly narrow skull and buck-toothed incisors give it the ability to extract insects, spiders, and centipedes from rocky crevices. Individuals in the north of this shrew's range are much smaller than individuals in the south. In most mammal species, the opposite is true—northern individuals tend to be larger."

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  • Original description: Batchelder, C.F., 1896.  An undescribed shrew of the genus Sorex, p.133.  Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 10:133-134.
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Appalachian Mountains, from Nova Scotia (Scott 1987) and southeastern New Brunswick outhward along the mountains to North Carolina and Tennessee (Kirkland, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Recent data indicate that populations formerly recognized as Sorex gaspensis actually should be included in S. dispar, so the range of S. dispar extends northeastward to the Gaspe Peninsuala in Quebec and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia (Rhymer et al. 2004).

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Range Description

This species occurs in the Appalachian Mountains, from Nova Scotia (Scott, 1987) and southeastern New Brunswick, Canada southward along the mountains to North Carolina and Tennessee in the United States (Kirkland, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). Recent data indicate that populations formerly recognized as Sorex gaspensis actually should be included in S. dispar, so the range of S. dispar extends northeastward to the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada (Rhymer et al., 2004).
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Geographic Range

The range of Sorex dispar extends from Nova Scotia, Canada south through Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina (Nowak,1999). In the United States, they are found in greatest abundance throughout the Appalachian Mountain Range (PA Game Commission website, 2001).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Sorex dispar is often confused with its close relative Sorex fumeus, the smoky shrew. Their appearance is quite similar and their ranges may overlap in some locations. However, Sorex dispar can be distinguished by several defining characteristics, including a more slender body and longer tail (Whitaker and Hamilton, 1998). They have a long snout and small eyes, with a long and thick tail. Their length ranges from 46-100 mm. and their weight ranges between 4-6 g., with a tail length that ranges between 25-82 mm (Nowak, 1999). They have a dark grey pelage with slightly paler under parts. Their teeth are sharp, pointed and often stained (PA Game Commission website, 2001).

Range mass: 4 to 6 g.

Range length: 46 to 100 mm.

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Size

Length: 14 cm

Weight: 6 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: None

Length:
Average: 119.5 mm
Range: 103-136 mm

Weight:
Average: 4.9 g
Range: 3.1-8.3 g
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Diagnostic Description

Often confused with the smoky shrew (SOREX FUMEUS), but S. DISPAR has a longer, thicker, and hairier tail and is uniformly slate-gray in all seasons. S. FUMEUS turns brownish in summer. In winter, when the two species are similarly colored, S. FUMEUS differs in having lighter belly hair.

The unicuspid tooth row of S. DISPAR is relatively narrow, with the third unicuspid equal to or slightly smaller than the fourth. The fifth unicuspid is larger than that of S. FUMEUS but is smaller than the third. S. DISPAR has less tooth pigmentation.

Subspecies BLITCHI averages darker in color and larger in external and cranial dimensions than subspecies DISPAR (Webster 1987).

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Mountainous, forested areas (deciduous or evergreen) with loose talus. Rocky damp areas with deep crevices covered by leaf mold and roots are preferred. May occur along small mountain streams. Will use artificial talus created by road construction and pit mines. "SOREX DISPAR is probably the most stenotopic mammal in eastern North America..." (Webster 1987). Trapping results reported by Richmond and Grimm (1950) suggest that Long-tailed Shrews spend most of their time in the labyrinth of spaces between rocks about a foot beneath the surface. Nest sites are usually associated with natural subterranean tunnels among boulder crevices.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in mountainous, forested areas (deciduous or evergreen) with loose talus. Rocky damp areas with deep crevices covered by leaf mold and roots are preferred. It may occur along small mountain streams. It will use artificial talus created by road construction and pit mines. Trapping results reported by Richmond and Grimm (1950) suggest that long-tailed shrews spend most of their time in the labyrinth of spaces between rocks about a foot beneath the surface. Nest sites are usually associated with natural subterranean tunnels among boulder crevices. Breeding occurs in spring and summer, possibly late April to August (Kirkland and Van Deuen, 1979). One or two litters may be produced from May through August, with two to five young per litter. Sexual maturity is reached in less than a year. Like other shrews, this species probably does not survive beyond about 18 months.

The shrew's partly subterranean existence among rocks makes observation, direct or indirect, very difficult. Virtually all data comes from trapping. Nothing is known of territoriality or home range size. The same predators that feed on other shrews probably take long-tailed shrews, e.g., weasels, snakes, hawks and owls, but there is no specific information. External parasites include fleas, ticks, mites and chiggers. While no internal parasites have been reported, nematodes and tapeworms are common in other shrew species. Examination of the digestive tracts of long-tailed shrews indicates a diet primarily of small invertebrates. Some better-known species of shrews are reported to consume approximately their own weight in food daily, and, with their high metabolic rates, may die within a few hours when deprived of food.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Sorex dispar has a wide tolerance for altitudinal variation, as well as different types of vegetation. They can be found in cool, damp forests, both deciduous and mixed (Nowak, 1999). However, their preferred habitats are the moist forested areas of high altitude regions. Living primarily in mountainous environments, these shrews can be found at high densities along mountain streams and amid the debris surrounding rock-slides (Whitaker and Hamilton, 1998). In these rock-slide areas, they can often be found amongst the subterranean tunnels found in the rocky crevices between boulders (DiscoverLife website, 2001).

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

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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: Examination of the digestive tracts of long-tailed shrews indicates a diet primarily of small invertebrates. Three Pennsylvania specimens yielded mostly centipedes (Richmond and Grimm 1950), six individuals from Great Smoky Mountains National Park contained chiefly insects, including beetles, with a lesser amount of spiders (Conaway and Pfitzer 1952), and Connor (1960) reported these food percentages from nine New York specimens: insects 74.9, centipedes 14.7, spiders 10.6, and plant material 1.1. Some better-known species of shrews are reported to consume approximately their own weight in food daily, and, with their high metabolic rates, may die within a few hours when deprived of food.

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Food Habits

Due to their size, these shrews forage day and night, often consuming twice their body weight in food every day. This ravenous need for food is a response to their active lifestyle and small size, which produces a large surface-area-to-volume ratio compared to larger mammals. Due to their greater heat loss, these small animals must consume a proportionally larger amount of food than larger species (Vaughn, 2000). Their foraging focuses mainly on small invertebrates and plant materials. They eat almost continuously, feeding mostly above the ground and amongst the debris (PA Game Commission website, 2001). Some of their more common foods are centipedes, beetles, and spiders, as well as flies and crickets (Richmond, 1950).

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

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

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Due to their relative rarity, not much is known about specific ecosystem roles for this species. However, like many other terrestrial shrew species, Sorex dispar likely plays a large role in controlling insect populations through their foraging (DiscoverLife website, 2001).

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Predation

To avoid predation while foraging, Sorex dispar often feed at night. Also, they tend to remain concealed under the debris of the forest floor. Also, since they are often mistaken by predators for mice, these shrews have a distinct musky odor that may serve as a deterant to predators (PA Game Commission website, 2001).

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Sorex dispar is prey of:
Mammalia
Strigiformes
Serpentes
Mustela
Falconiformes

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

Sorex dispar preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Arthropoda
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: There are a number of occurrences, but many are pre-1980. This species is not particularily easy to trap, and the actual number of occurrences far exceed what is currently known (Master, pers. comm., 1994).

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Many biologists agree with Charles Bier (pers. comm.) who reported: "Given the habitat, which is usually difficult to survey, it is probably a lot more common than the specimen records indicate." In a 1980 (?) study in the White Mountains (New Hampshire), 100 long-tailed shrews (half the catch of small mammals could not be identified) were found (pitfall traps) evenly dispersed throughout six forested habitat types (Master pers. comm., 1994).

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General Ecology

Very little is known about ecology, behavior and reproductive biology. The shrew's partly subterranean existence among rocks makes observation--direct or indirect--very difficult. Virtually all our data come from trapping.

Nothing is known of territoriality or home range size. Shrew species generally tend to be territorial and asocial; territoriality tends to break down in the breeding season and when food resources are abundant. Researchers have recorded home range sizes for various species from 75 sq m to 12,000 sq m (2.97 acres) (Churchfield 1990).

Shrew population densities depend on species, season, habitat, and perhaps prey abundance. Recorded densities for various North American shrew species range from 0 to 30 per ha (0 to 12 per acre) (Churchfield 1990). Again, few figures are available for the long-tailed shrew, but some biologists think it is more common than captures would indicate due to difficulty of trapping in the subterranean talus microhabitat. Richmond and Grimm (1950) reported that seven long-tailed shrews were trapped on one acre (0.4 per ha) in Pennsylvania.

The same predators that feed on other shrews probably take long-tailed shrews, e.g., weasels, snakes, hawks and owls, but we have no specific information. External parasites include fleas, ticks, mites and chiggers. While no internal parasites have been reported, nematodes and tapeworms are common in other shrew species.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Continuously active both day and night.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Like many other shrews, this species is short-lived. Lifespan estimates for wild individuals rarely exceed 2 years. Other than predation, some other common causes of death include starvation, rapid temperature changes, floods, and fights with other individuals. (PA Game Commission website, 2001)

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
2 years.

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Reproduction

Breeding occurs in spring and summer, possibly late April to August (Kirkland and Van Deuen 1979). One or two litters may be produced from May through August, with two to five young per litter (Tate 1935, Richmond and Grimm 1950). Sexually maturity is reached in less than a year. Like other shrews, this species probably does not survive beyond about 18 months.

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The reproductive season for Sorex dispar is between April through August and they usually have several litters throughout each year. The average litter size is between four and seven, and the young are born helpless and unfurred (Nowak, 1999). They are placed quickly into a nest made of grasses and leaves, where they reumain until they are weaned. The nests are usually 10-20 cm in diameter (DiscoverLife website, 2001). Due to the rare opportunities for study of Sorex dispar, not much is known about their reproductive and behavioral development. The newborns are usually placed in a ball of vegetation directly after birth. After four or five weeks, the young are weaned and partially independent. Usually, the young spend the next several weeks foraging close to their mother before becoming completely independent (Nowak, 1999).

Average weaning age: 4-5 weeks.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sorex dispar

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: An Appalachian Mountains endemic with a habitat that is not often suited for human use and development; due to the difficulty of trapping this species, there are probably more occurrences than are currently known.

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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 (Whittaker, J.C., Hammerson, G., Master, L. & Norris, S.J.)

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 a widespread species with no major threats and its population is not declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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This species is rare, but is not specifically recognized under any major conservation status.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Likely stable over most of the range, but few population data are available.

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Population

Population
It is an Appalachian Mountains endemic with a habitat that is not often suited for human use and development. Due to the difficulty of trapping this species, there are probably more occurrences than are currently known. The long-tailed shrew is, therefore, apparently secure and likely stable over most of the range, but few population data are available.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

Comments: Habitat destruction is a threat, but less so than for many rare species because the preferred habitat, talus, is often unsuitable for development, and provides a very uniform subterranean environment that is not highly vulnerable to disturbance. However, ski area expansion may be a threat to some populations, as in Vermont (Fichtel, pers. comm., 1992). Highway construction may create more habitat than it destroys, as long-tailed shrews have been collected in the artificial talus slopes of road cuts (Conway and Pfitzer 1952). Logging is unlikely to adversely impact this shrew; Kirkland (1977) showed that shrews persisted in recently clearcut red spruce stands in West Virginia. "Habitat specialization in a species frequently is associated with a limited geographical distribution and small populations. Species having such characteristics ... may be subject to extinction caused by stochastic events" (Kirtland 1986). Shrews feed on invertebrates and may accumulate and concentrate pesticides and heavy metals in their tissues. Short-tailed shrews (BLARINA BREVICAUDA) were found to contain DDT nine years after application of the pesticide to a forest habitat (Dimond and Sherburne 1969). "Contamination of habitats, and the resultant effects on the food chain, by mining and refining of metalliferous ores, by motor exhausts and even the application of sewage sludge to land, is becoming more widespread. Shrews from contaminated grasslands have been found to accumulate some of the highest concentrations of metals recorded in wildlife" (Churchfield 1992). Long-term high deer populations could be a problem (Brooks and Healy 1988).

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Major Threats
Overall there are no major threats to this species throughout its range. Habitat destruction is a localised threat, but less so than for many rare species because the preferred habitat, talus, is often unsuitable for development, and provides a very uniform subterranean environment that is not highly vulnerable to disturbance. However, ski area expansion may be a threat to some populations, as in Vermont (Fichtel pers. comm., 1992). Highway construction may create more habitat than it destroys, as long-tailed shrews have been collected in the artificial talus slopes of road cuts (Conway and Pfitzer, 1952). Logging is unlikely to adversely impact this shrew; Kirkland (1979) showed that shrews persisted in recently clearcut red spruce stands in West Virginia. Shrews feed on invertebrates and may accumulate and concentrate pesticides and heavy metals in their tissues.
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Management

Restoration Potential: Where extirpated from habitat that has been restored or remained in good condition, this shrew probably could be successfully reintroduced from nearby populations. Many populations are on national forests or other federal lands, suggesting good potential for restoration, management, and protection.

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Aside from habitat considerations (see GHABCOM), no specific recommendations can be made at the present time.

Management Requirements: Protection of habitat from gross disturbance is the primary management requirement.

Management Research Needs: Research is needed in all aspects of biology, ecology, behavior, and life history. The minimum population size needed to maintain a genetically viable population in fragmented habitats should be examined.

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many populations are in national forests, parks, or other public lands, and many are in areas protected by their remoteness.

Needs: Protection of habitat from gross disturbance is the primary protection need. Habitats with these shrews should be protected from contamination by heavy metals and pesticides.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Many populations are in national forests, parks, or other public lands, and many are in areas protected by their remoteness. Protection of habitat from gross disturbance is the primary protection need. Habitats for these shrews should be protected from contamination by heavy metals and pesticides.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since this species has such little direct human contact (due to their isolated habitats), they have little direct economic impact. However, due to their intense and constant consumption of insects, these shrews may have a positive effect on the farming industry by reducing the number of insect larvae and pupae that become pests (Banfield, 1974).

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: The long-tailed shrew is an Appalachian endemic with very specific habitat requirements: cool, damp forest with deep talus. Very little is known of its status or natural history, so little can be given in the way of management suggestions.

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Wikipedia

Long-tailed shrew

The long-tailed shrew or rock shrew (Sorex dispar) is a small North American shrew found in Atlantic Canada and the north-eastern United States.

This shrew is slate grey in colour with a pointed snout, a long tail and lighter underparts. It is found on rocky slopes in mountainous areas along the Atlantic coast from Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to northern Georgia. It eats insects and spiders. Predators include hawks, owls, and snakes.

Gaspé shrew[edit]

The northernmost examples of this species were until recently thought to be a separate species, the Gaspé shrew (S. gaspensis) inhabiting the Gaspé Peninsula and Cape Breton Island. However, a 2004 study[3] indicated that the two species were conspecific, with the long-tailed shrew exhibiting a cline towards a smaller size at the northern edge of its range. As the Gaspé shrew, it was first described in A new species of shrew from the Gaspé Peninsula in no. 109, 1924 of American Museum Novitates, a publication of the American Museum of Natural History. When they were regarded as separate species, it was recognized that the Gapsé and long-tailed shrews inhabited similar habitats but were thought to be sympatric species with adjacent ranges.[4] They are now generally accepted to be the same species, with gaspensis a junior synonym and not even a subspecies.

Range[edit]

The long tailed shrew has an unusually small range. It is found in central New York (the Adirondacks and Catskills) and a small area in Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, the long-tailed shrew is only found in Berkshire County.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Whittaker, J.C., Hammerson, G., Master, L. & Norris, S.J. (2008). "Sorex dispar". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Rhymer, J. M., Barbay, J. M. and Givens, H. L. (2004). "Taxonomic relationship between Sorex dispar and S. gaspensis: inferences from mitochondrial DNA sequences". Journal of Mammalogy 85 (2): 331. doi:10.1644/BER-003. 
  4. ^ Munkwitz, Nicole (2002). "Sorex gaspensis". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: French and Kirkland (1983) concluded from morphological data indicate that S. dispar and S. gaspensis are not conspecific. However, the only significant difference between the two taxa is size, with S. gaspensis smaller than S. dispar (Kirkland and Van Deusen 1979, French and Kirkland 1983). Yet Sorex dispar exhibits a south to north decreasing cline in body size, suggesting the possibility that S. gaspensis is not a distinct species but rather simply represents the northern extent of the S. dispar cline. Accordingly, Rhymer et al. (2004) found that the apparent distributional gap between S. dispar and S. gaspensis is not as large as previously believed (if in fact it exists at all) and that a morphological cline between dispar and gaspensis cannot be ruled out. Additionally, using mtDNA d-loop sequences, Rhymer et al. (2004) found that S. gaspensis and S. dispar cluster with no taxonomic or geographic structure, suggesting that they are conspecific. Shafer et al. (2008) analyzed cytochrome-b sequences and inter-SINE fingerprinting data and concluded that dispar and gaspensis constitute a single species composed of a monophyletic group of genetically highly similar shrews.
Fumagalli et al. (1999) present a phylogenetic analysis of the genus Sorex based on mitochondrial DNA sequences. See George (1988) for electrophoretic study of systematic relationships among Sorex species.

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