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Animal Database
African Giant Shrew
The Congo Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1919) (20680539435)
Information
Range Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Soricomorpha
Family Soricidae
Genus Crocidura
Species C. olivieri
Conservation Status
LCSpecies
Least Concern

The African giant shrew (Crocidura olivieri) is a species of mammal in the Soricidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, dry savanna, moist savanna, arable land, rural gardens, urban areas, and heavily degraded former forest.

Taxonomy[]

This species was first de­scribed from mum­mi­fied spec­i­mens, found at Sakkara in An­cient Egypt­ian tombs, and in­cluded in the genus Sorex, the neo­type hav­ing been col­lected from near Giza. (To the an­cient Egyp­tians, the shrew rep­re­sented the noc­tur­nal side of Horus; see An­i­mal mummy #Mis­cel­la­neous an­i­mals.) The valid name is Cro­cidura olivieri. Large shrews of this type still live in Egypt and it is pre­sumed that the holo­type, which has been lost, re­sem­bled them closely. Now, the orig­i­nal name of Cro­cidura flavescens is used for a dif­fer­ent species, found solely in South Africa. About fif­teen sub­species have been pro­posed in the past and there are dark color morphs and pale color morphs, how­ever, bio­chem­i­cal ev­i­dence shows that all are vari­a­tions of a sin­gle, but highly vari­able species.

Description[]

This is a large shrew grow­ing to a head-and-body length of 110 to 140 mm (4.3 to 5.5 in) with a tail about 80% of the body length. The hindfoot mea­sures 21 to 23 mm (0.8 to 0.9 in). In Nige­ria, this shrew weighs be­tween 37 and 65 g (1.3 and 2.3 oz) while in Zim­babwe, it is smaller at 31 to 37 g (1.1 to 1.3 oz). The fur is vari­able in color, the dor­sal sur­face being red­dish-brown, dark brown, or black­ish, while the ven­tral sur­face is buffy-brown to dark grey. The tail is thickly clad with short bris­tles. The skull is ro­bust and some­what flat­tened, with a long ros­trum and small­ish brain­case. The teeth are large and strong, par­tic­u­larly the in­cisors. There are three pairs of nip­ples and on the flanks are glands that exude a musky odor.

Distribution and habitat[]

This shrew is pre­sent in the Nile Val­ley in Egypt and has a wide dis­tri­b­u­tion in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, where its range ex­tends from Sene­gal to Sudan and Ethiopia, and south­wards to An­gola, north­ern Namibia and Zim­babwe. It oc­curs in a wide range of habi­tats, both wet and dry, and both for­est and sa­vanna. In Egypt, it oc­curs in gar­dens, agri­cul­tural areas, and canal em­bank­ments. When it lives in close prox­im­ity to human set­tle­ments, it may be re­garded as a pest species.

Ecology[]

The African giant shrew is a ter­res­trial species that is ac­tive at night, par­tic­u­larly just be­fore dawn. It feeds on small in­ver­te­brates such as ants, bee­tles, mil­li­pedes, ter­mites, and spi­ders, and pos­si­bly also on car­rion. Breed­ing ac­tiv­ity varies across its range but ap­pears to take place most of the year with lit­ter sizes av­er­ag­ing about four. Owls such as the barn owl, the African grass owl, and the spot­ted ea­gle-owl are among the main preda­tors, as well as small mam­mals such as genets, mon­gooses, and wild cats.

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