The Hispaniolan Solenodon: one of the world’s weirdest mammals  

Commonly known as Hispaniolan Solenodon and Haitian Solenodon, Solenodon paradoxus (Soricomorpha - Solenodontidae) is one of these ‘last survivors’, and perhaps one of the evolutionary distinct mammals in existence today. 

It has several unusual features that make it truly unique, one of them is a venomous bite, yes, It is one of only a few species of mammal capable of producing toxic saliva, and the venom is delivered in a manner more common amongst reptiles, through special grooves in its second incisors (Solenodon literally means ‘slotted-tooth’). Add a goat-like musk scent, and a long snout with a ball-and-socket joint allowing an extreme range of movement, and the Hispaniolan Solenodon shapes up to be something of an oddity.

Locals in The Hispaniola claim that solenodons never run in a straight line, and that it grunts like a pig and calls like a bird. Perhaps the weirdest feature of the solenodon is how the females suckle their young - two elongated teats, located almost directly in the groin area of the animal, something found in no other known mammal, existing or fossilized.

This amazing species is endemic to Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), and is regarded as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credits: [Top: ©Jorge Brocca | Locality: Dominican Republic, 2009] - [Bottom: ©Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust-Darwin Initiative (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) | Locality: Dominican Republic, 2009] 

Here you can watch a video of this amazing creature.

Crocidura suaveolens or Crocidura russula | ©Matthieu Berroneau   (Gironde, France)

The genus Crocidura (Soricomorpha - Soricidae) is one of nine genera of the shrew subfamily Crocidurinae. Members of the genus are commonly called White-toothed shrews or Musk shrews, although both also apply to all of the species in the subfamily. With 182 species, Crocidura contains the largest number of species of any mammal genus [source].

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The northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) is a species of red-toothed shrew of the family Soricidae native to northeastern America and the eastern half of southern Canada. They prefer forests and grasslands that provide cover for them and a steady supply of water, as they can dehydrate quickly. They spend most of their days underground resting in nests lined with plant matter and often times the fur of meadow voles, with short bouts of activity for hunting.

These shrews are mostly insectivores, but will eat seeds and fungus as well as small vertebrates, including other shrews, mice, and salamanders. These shrews eat three times their weight a day, and increase their consumption 43% during the winter in order to maintain body heat. They are well known for being one of the only venomous mammals, with venom that is produced in submaxillary glands and paralyzes prey, and is able to kill small animals larger than itself. The venomous saliva travels into prey through the groove formed by its incisors meeting. It’s mostly harmless to humans, except that it makes their bites much more painful.

Northern short-tailed shrews have poor senses of smell and sight, thought to only be able to detect levels of light with their rudimentary eyes. They make up for this with a very sensitive sense of touch.

They breed from March to September, with males courting females with clicking noises. The pair will become locked together during copulation and the female will simply drag the male along the ground by his genitals. Two litters of four to seven young are typical within a breeding season, with the first litter usually reaching sexual maturity in enough to time to have their own litters before the breeding season they born in ends.