Etruscan shrew

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Etruscan shrew
Suncus etruscus.jpg

Etruscan shrew ( Suncus etruscus )

Superordinate : Laurasiatheria
Order : Insect eater (Eulipotyphla)
Family : Shrews (Soricidae)
Subfamily : Crocidurinae
Genre : Thick-tailed shrews ( Suncus )
Type : Etruscan shrew
Scientific name
Suncus etruscus
( Savi , 1822)

The Etruscan shrew ( Suncus etruscus ) is a species of mammal belonging to the shrew family . It is - together with the pig-nosed bat - the smallest mammal in the world and lives in the Mediterranean area and parts of Asia .


Etruscan shrews reach a head body length of 35 to 48 millimeters, plus a 25 to 30 millimeter long tail. Adult animals weigh around 2.5 grams. Their short, soft fur is gray-brown in color, the tail is dark on top and has long hair. As with all shrews, the snout is elongated and the ears are relatively large. The males have a gland on the flanks that secretes a musk- smelling secretion.

distribution and habitat

Etruscan shrews are distributed from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia. In Europe they inhabit the Iberian , Apennine and Balkan peninsulas; in addition, they live on some Mediterranean islands. In northern Africa they are distributed from Morocco to Egypt , and there is an introduced population in the Canary Islands . In Asia, its distribution area extends from the eastern Mediterranean area over the Arabian Peninsula , the Caucasus region, Central and South Asia , in Southeast Asia to Borneo . Reports of occurrences in Guinea , Nigeria, and Ethiopia are dubious and require further investigation. In the People's Republic of China, the Etruscan shrew only lives in the southwest of the Yunnan Province in the Gengma Autonomous County .

In Switzerland, the species has been considered extinct since 1895, but in November 2011 it was detected again by the zoologist Peter Vogel in the canton of Ticino .

The Etruscan shrew inhabits a number of habitats, including sparse forests, bushy areas, and grasslands. Sometimes it can also be found near people, for example in vineyards and olive groves. It occurs up to 3000 meters above sea level. In China it lives in open meadows, bushes and deciduous forests.

Way of life

Etruscan shrews have a very high metabolic rate and a correspondingly high energy consumption. Their heart beats up to 1500 times per minute, more often than any other warm-blooded animal. During this time you can breathe up to 900 times. Your heart is very big and the skeletal muscles are also designed to move extremely quickly. The animals are constantly on the move and looking for food. In the rare phases of rest, they retreat under leaves lying on the ground. In times of lack of food or too low temperatures, they fall into a torpor . They are territorial animals. With twittering noises and if necessary with aggression, they drive intruders out of their territory . In order to meet their high energy requirements, they have to eat a lot. Like all shrews, they feed primarily on insects , such as ants , meal beetles and crickets . When looking for food, they rely mainly on their sense of smell , their sense of sight is poorly developed. They dig in the ground or under leaves with their long snouts, their front paws are not used to help them get food.

Little is known about the reproduction of the Etruscan shrews. In a laboratory experiment, couples lived peacefully with their young during the breeding season; it is not known whether they live in monogamous pairs all year round or are loners outside of the breeding season . After a gestation period of around 27 days, two to six young animals are born. They are weaned after around 17 to 20 days. Nothing is known about life expectancy.


The species is rarely seen or trapped, so little is known about how it lives or how endangered it is. Their remains are more often found in ridges , but here, too, it turns out that they are less common, at least in Europe, than other shrew species. It can live close to humans, but it avoids intensely cultivated land. Because of its large distribution area and because no massive threats are known, the IUCN lists the species as "not endangered" ( least concern ).

In Europe the kind including in will Tierpark Berlin , the Zoo Dresden , in Karlsruhe Zoo , in Tierpark Görlitz and in the Alpine Zoo Innsbruck held former holders were Frankfurt and Bern .


The Etruscan shrew is one of almost 20 species of the genus of the thick-tailed shrew ( Suncus ), which includes the also widespread but significantly larger musk shrew . Several populations were previously considered subspecies of the Etruscan shrew , but are now listed as separate species, namely Suncus madagascariensis from Madagascar, Suncus fellowesgordoni from Sri Lanka, Suncus hosei from Borneo, and Suncus malayanus from the Malay Peninsula. The animals from South and Southeast Asia may represent a species of their own that has not yet been described.


  • Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World . 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9 (English).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's mammals of the world . 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9 , pp. 224 (English, limited preview in Google Book search).
  2. a b Suncus etruscus in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  3. a b Etruscan Shrew. In: Andrew T. Smith , Yan Xie: A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 2008, ISBN 978-0-691-09984-2 , p. 303.
  4. SF Tagesschau November 5, 2011  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  5. Matthias Meili: The search for the tiny. In: Tages-Anzeiger . tamedia , January 8, 2012, p. 1 , accessed January 8, 2012 .
  6. ^ Klaus D. Jürgens: Etruscan shrew muscle: the consequences of being small. In: The Journal of Experimental Biology. Vol. 205, No., 2002, ISSN  0022-0949 , pp. 2161-2166, full text .
  7. Etruscan shrew on Accessed April 30, 2020.
  8. Michael D. Carleton, Guy G. Musser: Order Rodentia. In: Don E. Wilson , DeeAnn M. Reeder (Eds.): Mammal Species of the World. A taxonomic and geographic Reference. 2 volumes. 3. Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD 2005, ISBN 0-8018-8221-4 , pp. 745-752.

Web links

Commons : Etruscan shrew ( Suncus etruscus )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files