12 January 2010

As happy as a (Reddish-Grey Musk) Shrew

Finally! I found a shrew. Actually I stumbled upon it. Last week I decided to put my camera next to a boulder, because I couldn't find any better place at the time. I did not expect much from the location and went back 2 days later to move the camera to a "better" area. The camera was set on video mode and when I checked the videos, back in my office, I was very happy! Not only was I surprised to have gotten video footage of animals at all, but I was very surprised when I saw a shrew also frequents the area!

A Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew (Rooigrysmuskusskeerbek)

It took time, some hard research and a night's sleep to convince myself that the shrew in question is a Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew. If you compare this to the shrew I stumbled into in the forest a while ago you might notice the difference in the texture of the hair on the body. I don't have a good enough image of the previous shrew, but after looking at this one I suspect that to be a Forest Shrew. I will have to return to the boulder in the ravine soon, with new motivation to get that shrew.

Possibly sent-marking the edge of the rock using the glands on its body

It is often very difficult to find good information about small mammals and I could find very little concerning this species. In one of the videos it appears to be marking it's territory with sent glands on its body and I found a reference to similar behaviour in another closely related species in the same genus, the Greater Red Musk Shrew. Smell plays an important role for the Greater Red Musk Shrew and particularly males will sent-mark objects in their surroundings using their lateral glands. They also use their neck glands and sometimes their anal glands.

I was definitely surprised at how small this animal is, even compared to other small mammals such as rodents.

The Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew is a small grey to grey brown shrew. The head and body length is about 7.6 cm and weighs about 9 grams. It is widely distributed with a very wide habitat tolerance. It is the most widely distributed shrew in southern Africa. It is predominantly nocturnal, solitary and terrestrial. They can often be found in association with rocks and prefers dense ground level vegetation and deep leaf litter.

Video: Shrew climbing over a rock

They are insectivorous and will eat all sorts of invertebrates. They also consume very small amounts of leaf, seed and other plant material.

Video: Possibly scent-marking on the edge of the rock and then running off

The Afrikaans name for Shrew is Skeerbek, which I rather enjoy. A crude direct translation would be Shave Mouth. I guess it is because its mouth area has less hair and seems as if the hair was shaved off.

The batteries of the Bushnell Trophy Cam finally gave in this week. I have been very impressed with it thus far. The batteries are a lot cheaper and last a lot longer than my Moultrie's. I'm already thinking of saving up for another one :)

I'm hoping to be exploring Tygerberg Nature Reserve with my cameras some time soon so both cameras are at home waiting... Hopefully the camera's aren't here at home for to long...

Gus Mills and Lex Hes (1997). The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: Struik Winchester. 50.
John D. Skinner & Christian T. Chimimba (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press. 246-249.

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