Overview

Brief Summary

Tenrecs (Family Tenrecidae)

Tenrrecs are widely diverse, due to convergent evolution; various species resemble hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, mice and otters, but are not closely related to any of these groups. Their closest living relatives are African, insectivorous mammals such as golden moles and elephant shrews, which share a common ancestry with aardvarks, hyraxes, elephants, and sea cows in the group Afrotheria (3-9). All Madagascan species seem to have evolved from a single, common ancestor, with the mainland tenrecs comprising the next, most-closely related mammalian species (11,12). Some fossil specimens from the early Miocene of Kenya show close affinities to living species from Madagascar (13), such as Geogale aurita. The fossil record of tenrecids is relatively poor. The oldest known fossils are from the Miocene in East Africa and the Pleistocene in Madagascar, but the group is certainly considerably older. Recent molecular evidence (Murphy et al. 2001) suggests that they should be removed from the Insectivora and placed within a group of African mammals, the Afrotheria, which includes aardvarks, elephants, hyraxes, sea cows, elephant shrews, and golden moles as well as tenrecs. Tenrecs live in Madagascar and western central Africa and occupy aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial and fossorial environments. Some live in Madagascar's dry deciduous forests, while otter shrews live in fast-running streams of the African tropics. Tenrecs have radiated to include species that resemble, morphologically and ecologically, widely diverse mammals including hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, mice and otters. Tenrecs lack jugals, and their zygomatic arches are incomplete. Their tympanic bones are annular, and the squamosal contributes to the roof of the tympanic cavity. The dental formula varies consirably among species: 2-3/2-3, 1/1, 2-3/2-3, 2-4/2-3 = 32-40. The permanent dentition in tenrecs tends not to completely erupt until well after adult body size is reached (14). This features is shared by elephants, hyraxes, sengis and golden moles (but apparently not aardvarks), consistent with their descent from a common ancestor. The upper molars are zalambdodont, except in the otter shrews (Potamogalinae), where they are dilambdodont. The urogenital and anal apertures are included in a common opening or cloaca, a feature more commonly seen in birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The eyes are small. Many tenrecs do not maintain a constant body temperature, but let their bodies cool down while they are at rest. At least one species hibernates. Male tenrecids do not need a scrotum to cool their sperm as most other mammals do (2), so the testes remain within the body cavity. Most species are nocturnal and have poor eyesight. Their other senses are well developed and they have especially sensitive whiskers. During abnormally hot summer weather, tenrecs enter a state of inactivity, called aestivation and resembling hibernation. Before the start of the Austral winter (May-September), tenrecs eat more and lay down fat reserves in their bodies or tails before hibernating, which they usually do in burrows with the entrance plugged with soil. Madagascan winters are quite mild and could be termed the cool, dry season, but the vegetation and hence the food supplies, suffer from lack of rain and the tenrecs become dormant. Dormant tenrecs dug from their burrows are stiff and cold to the touch, have a very low breathing rate and lack food in the stomach or faeces in the intestine. When active, the body temperature that ranges from 75.2° F (24°C) to 95°F (35°C), much lower than most mammals.The body temperature of hibernating tenrecs is usually just 1.8° F (1°C) above the ambient temperature (17). This behaviour occurs with captive zoo specimens in countries with cooler average temperatures than their tropical Madagascan homeland (16). At least some species of tenrecs are social, living in multigenerational family groups with over 12 individuals. All species seem to be at least somewhat omnivorous, with invertebrates forming most the largest part of their diets. Tenrecs have a gestation period of 50-64 days and give birth to a relatively undeveloped young. Otter shrews have two young per litter, but the tailless tenrec has up to 29 teats and can have 32 young, more than other mammals (2). Some inhabitants of Mauritius eat tenrec meat. Subfamily Geogalinae: Large-eared tenrec (Geogale aurita) Subfamily Oryzorictinae: These small tenrecs lack spines. Most are shrew-like or mole-like, but Limnogale is aquatic. Some are highly fossorial. Web-footed tenrec (Limnogale mergulus); Short-tailed shrew tenrec (Microgale brevicaudata); Cowan's shrew tenrec (M. cowani); Dobson's shrew tenrec (M. dobsoni); Drouhard's shrew tenrec (M. drouhardi); Dryad shrew tenrec (M. dryas); Pale shrew tenrec (M. fotsifotsy); Gracile shrew tenrec (M. gracilis); M. grandidieri; Naked-nosed shrew tenrec (M. gymnorhyncha); Jenkins' shrew tenrec (M. jenkinsae); Northern shrew tenrec (M. jobihely); Lesser long-tailed shrew tenrec (M. longicaudata); M. macpheei (extinct); Major's long-tailed tenrec (M. majori); Montane shrew tenrec (M. monticola); Nasolo's shrew tenrec (M. nasoloi); Pygmy shrew tenrec (M. parvula); Greater long-tailed shrew tenrec (M. principula); Least shrew tenrec (M. pusilla); Shrew-toothed shrew tenrec (M. soricoides); Taiva shrew tenrec (M. taiva); Talazac's shrew tenrec (M. talazaci); Thomas's shrew tenrec (M. thomasi); Mole-like rice tenrec (Oryzorictes hova); Four-toed rice tenrec (O. tetradactylus) Subfamily Potamogalinae: Otter shrews are modified for an aquatic life and probably represent an early branch of the family. Nimba otter shrew (Micropotamogale lamottei); Ruwenzori otter shrew (M. ruwenzorii); Giant otter shrew (Potamogale velox) Subfamily Tenrecinae: These tenrecs are relatively large (up to the size of a cat) and highly variable in body form. All have spines, which are barbed and detachable in some forms and are controlled by a well-developed muscle, the panniculus carnosus. Tenrecines are mostly nocturnal and mostly omnivorous. Lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi); Highland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps); Lowland streaked tenrec (H. semispinosus); Greater hedgehog tenrec (Setifer setosus); Common tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus)

  • 1. Savage, RJG, & Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-1194-X.
  • 2. Nicholl, Martin (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
  • 3. Stanhope, MJ; Waddell, VG; Madsen, O; de Jong, W; Hedges, SB; Cleven, GC; Kao, D; Springer, MS (1998). "Molecular evidence for multiple origins of Insectivora and for a new order of endemic African insectivore mammals". PNAS 95 (17): 9967–72. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.17.9967. PMC 21445. PMID 9707584.
  • 4. Springer MS, Stanhope MJ, Madsen O, de Jong WW (2004). "Molecules consolidate the placental mammal tree". Trends Ecol Evol 19 (8): 430–438. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2004.05.006. PMID 16701301.
  • 5. Robinson, T. J. Fu, B. Ferguson-Smith, M. A. Yang, F. (2004). "Cross-species chromosome painting in the golden mole and elephant-shrew: support for the mammalian clades Afrotheria and Afroinsectiphillia but not Afroinsectivora". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 271 (1547): 1477–84. doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.2754.
  • 6. Asher RJ, Bennet N, Lehmann T. (2009). "The new framework for understanding placental mammal evolution". BioEssays 31 (8): 853–64. doi:10.1002/bies.200900053. PMID 19582725.
  • 7. Tabuce, R., Marivaux, L., Adaci, M., Bensalah, M., Hartenberger (2007). "Early tertiary mammals from North Africa reinforce the molecular Afrotheria clade". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274 (1614): 1159–66. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0229.
  • 8. Seiffert, E. (2007). "A new estimate of afrotherian phylogeny based on simultaneous analysis of genomic, morphological, and fossil evidence". BMC Evol Biol 7 (224): 13. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-224. PMC 2248600. PMID 17999766.
  • 9. Sanchez-Villagra, M. R., Narita, Y. and Kuratani, S. (2007). "Thoracolumbar vertebral number: the first skeletal synapomorphy for afrotherian mammals". Syst Biodivers 5 (1): 1–17. doi:10.1017/S1477200006002258.
  • 10. Benstead, J. P.; L. E. Olson (2003). "Limnogale mergulus, web-footed tenrec or aquatic tenrec". In S. M. Goodman and J. P. Benstead. The natural history of Madagascar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). pp. 1267–73. ISBN 9780226303079.
  • 11. Olson LE, Goodman SM (2003). "Phylogeny and biogeography of tenrecs". In Goodman SM, Benstead JP. The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago: Chicago University Press. pp. 1235–42. ISBN 9780226303079.
  • 12. Poux C, Madsen O, Glos J, de Jong WW, Vences M. (2008). "Molecular phylogeny and divergence times of Malagasy tenrecs: influence of data partitioning and taxon sampling on dating analyses". BMC Evol Biol 8: 102. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-102. PMC 2330147. PMID 18377639.
  • 13. Asher RJ, Hofreiter M (2006). "Tenrec phylogeny and the noninvasive extraction of nuclear DNA". Syst Biol 55 (2): 181–94. doi:10.1080/10635150500433649. PMID 16522569.
  • 14. Asher, R. J. and T. Lehmann (2008). "Dental eruption in afrotherian mammals". BMC Biol 6: 14. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-14. PMC 2292681. PMID 18366669.
  • 15. Bronner, G. N. and P.D. Jenkins (2005). "Order Afrosoricida". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 72–77. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  • 16. Shuker, KPN (2001). The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd.
  • 17. Roots C. 2006. Hibernation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Other references
  • Macdonald, D., ed. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, Facts On File Publications.
  • Murphy, W.J., E. Eisirik, S.J. O'Brian, O. Madsen, M. Scally, C.J. Douady, E. Teeling, O.A. Ryder, M.J. Stanhope, W.W. de Jong, and M.S. Springer. 2001. Resolution of the early placental mammal radiation using Bayesian phylogenetics. Science 294238-2351.
  • Nowak, R.M., and J.L. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th ed., Vol. I. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Vaughan, T.A. 1972. Mammalogy. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders Co.
  • Yates, T. L. 1984. Insectivores, elephant shrews, tree shrews, and dermopterans. Pp. 117-144 in Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr. (eds). Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y. xii+686 pp.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Hibernator survives cold: tenrec
 

The metabolism of tenrecs allows them to survive cold temperatures if necessary via hibernation.

     
  "Certain mammals are known to estivate. Perhaps the best-known examples are tenrecs - Madagascan insectivores related to hedgehogs. During the abnormally hot summer weather, they enter a state of inactivity resembling hibernation. Moreover, when outside temperatures plummet, they undergo true hibernation, becoming stiff and cold to the touch. This behavior has been noted on a number of occasions with captive zoo specimens of tenrecs maintained in countries with cooler average temperatures than that of their tropical Madagascan homeland." (Shuker 2001:105)

"Prior to the start of the Austral winter (May to September) they eat more and lay down fat reserves within their bodies in order to hibernate, which they usually do in burrows with the entrance plugged with soil. The long-tailed or shrew tenrecs (Microgale) also store fat in their tails, and in Dobson's shrew tenrec (Microgale dobsoni) the nomad weight of 1 1/2 ounces (46 g) is almost doubled by the fat stored for hibernation. Madagascan winters are quitter mild, and could be termed the cool, dry season rather than winter. In the highlands at 4,100 feet (1,250 m) the temperature averages 59° F (15° C) in the dry season, just a few degrees lower than summer levels, but the vegetation, and consequently the food supplies, suffer from lack of rain and the tenrecs become dormant in their burrows…Dormant tenrecs dug out of their burrows were cold to the touch, had a very low breathing rate, and had neither food in their stomach or feces in the intestine. Even when active the tenrecs have a variable body temperature that ranges from 75.2° F (24°C) to 95°F (35°C). This is considerable lower than other mammals, which average 98.6°F (37°C), and the tenrec shares with the sloths the title of the most cold-blooded mammal. The body temperature of hibernating tenrecs is usually just 1.8° F (1°C) above the ambient temperature." (Roots 2006: 191)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
  • Roots C. 2006. Hibernation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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Functional adaptation

Managing high temperatures: tenrecs
 

Tenrecs survive hot summer weather by entering a state of dormancy called estivation.

     
  "Certain mammals are known to estivate. Perhaps the best-known examples are tenrecs - Madagascan insectivores related to hedgehogs. During the abnormally hot summer weather, they enter a state of inactivity resembling hibernation. Moreover, when outside temperatures plummet, they undergo true hibernation, becoming stiff and cold to the touch. This behavior has been noted on a number of occasions with captive zoo specimens of tenrecs maintained in countries with cooler average temperatures than that of their tropical Madagascan homeland." (Shuker 2001:105)

"Prior to the start of the Austral winter (May to September) they eat more and lay down fat reserves within their bodies in order to hibernate, which they usually do in burrows with the entrance plugged with soil. The long-tailed or shrew tenrecs (Microgale) also store fat in their tails, and in Dobson's shrew tenrec (Microgale dobsoni) the nomad weight of 1 1/2 ounces (46 g) is almost doubled by the fat stored for hibernation. Madagascan winters are quitter mild, and could be termed the cool, dry season rather than winter. In the highlands at 4,100 feet (1,250 m) the temperature averages 59° F (15° C) in the dry season, just a few degrees lower than summer levels, but the vegetation, and consequently the food supplies, suffer from lack of rain and the tenrecs become dormant in their burrows…Dormant tenrecs dug out of their burrows were cold to the touch, had a very low breathing rate, and had neither food in their stomach or feces in the intestine. Even when active the tenrecs have a variable body temperature that ranges from 75.2° F (24°C) to 95°F (35°C). This is considerable lower than other mammals, which average 98.6°F (37°C), and the tenrec shares with the sloths the title of the most cold-blooded mammal. The body temperature of hibernating tenrecs is usually just 1.8° F (1°C) above the ambient temperature…These tenrecs also experience a daily temperature range of several degrees between their active and rest periods during the spring and summer, and they also estivate during the hottest times of the year." (Roots 2006: 191)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
  • Roots C. 2006. Hibernation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:8Public Records:4
Specimens with Sequences:8Public Species:1
Specimens with Barcodes:8Public BINs:1
Species:2         
Species With Barcodes:2         
          
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Barcode data

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