Img 3089 macroscelides proboscideus short-eared elephant shrew plzen zoo-207149
Round-eared Elephant Shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Macroscelidea
Family Macroscelididae

Macroscelidea or elephant shrews and jumping shrews, is a family of small insectivorous mammals native to Africa, belonging to the family Macroscelididae, in the order Macroscelidea, whose traditional common English name comes from a fancied resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an elephant, and an assumed relationship with the shrews (Soricidae) in the order Insectivora. Nonetheless, elephant shrews are not classified with the superficially similar true shrews, but are ironically more closely related to elephants and their kin within the newly recognized Afrotheria; the biologist Jonathan Kingdon has proposed they instead be called sengis, a term derived from the Bantu languages of Africa.

They are widely distributed across the southern part of Africa, and although common nowhere, can be found in almost any type of habitat, from the Namib Desert to boulder-strewn outcrops in South Africa to thick forest. One species, the North African elephant shrew (Elephantulus rozeti), remains in the semiarid, mountainous country in the far northwest of the continent.


Elephant shrews are small, quadrupedal, insectivorous mammals resembling rodents or opossums, with scaly tails, elongated snouts, and rather long legs for their size, which are used to move in a hopping fashion like rabbits. They vary in size from about 10 cm to almost 30 cm, from just under 50 g to over 500 g. The round-eared elephant shrew has an average size of 150 mm (5.9 in). Although the size of the trunk varies from one species to another, all are able to twist it about in search of food. Their lifespans are about two and a half to four years in the wild.

Although mostly diurnal and very active, they are difficult to trap and very seldom seen; elephant shrews are wary, well camouflaged, and adept at dashing away from threats. Several species make a series of cleared pathways through the undergrowth and spend their day patrolling them for insect life. If disturbed, the pathway provides an obstacle-free escape route.

Elephant shrews are not highly social animals, but many live in monogamous pairs, which share and defend a home territory they mark using scent glands. Rhynchocyon species also dig small conical holes in the soil, bandicoot-style, but others may make use of natural crevices, or make leaf nests.

round-eared elephant shrews inhabit the dry steppes and stone deserts of southwestern Africa. They can even be found in the Namib Desert, one of the driest regions of the earth. Females drive away other females, while males try to ward off other males. Although they live in pairs, the partners do not care much for each other and their sole purpose of even associating with the opposite sex is for reproduction. Social behaviors are not very common and they even have separate nests. The one or two young are well developed at birth; they are able to run around just a few hours after birth.

Female elephant shrews undergo a menstrual cycle similar to that of human females and the species is one of the very few nonprimate mammals to do so. The elephant shrew mating period lasts for several days. After mating, the pair will return to their solitary habits. After a gestation period varying from 45 to 60 days, the female will give birth to litters of one to three young several times a year. The young are born relatively well developed, but remain in the nest for several days before venturing outside.

After five days, the young's milk diet is supplemented with mashed insects, which are collected and transported in the cheek pouches of the female. The young then slowly start to explore their environment and hunt for insects. After about 15 days, the young will begin the migratory phase of their lives, which lessens the dependency of the young on their mother. The young will then establish their own home ranges (about 1 km2) and will become sexually active within 41–46 days.


In the past, elephant shrews have been classified with the shrews and hedgehogs as part of the Insectivora; regarded as distant relatives of the ungulates; grouped with the treeshrews; and lumped in with the hares and rabbits in the Lagomorpha. Recent molecular evidence, however, strongly supports a superorder Afrotheria that unites elephant shrews with tenrecs and golden moles as well as certain mammals previously presumed to be ungulates, including hyraxes, sirenians, aardvarks and elephants.

Order: Macroscelidea
 Family: Macroscelididae
  Genus: Elephantulus
   Short-snouted Elephant Shrew (A. Smith, 1836) (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus)
   Cape Elephant Shrew (A. Smith, 1839) (Elephantulus edwardii)
   Dusky-footed Elephant Shrew (Thomas, 1894) (Elephantulus fuscipes)
   Bushveld Elephant Shrew (A. Smith, 1836) (Elephantulus intufi)
   Eastern Rock Elephant Shrew (Thomas & Schwann, 1906) (Elephantulus myurus)
   Karoo Rock Elephant Shrew (Smit, 2008) (Elephantulus pilicaudus)
   Somali Elephant Shrew (Huet, 1881) (Elephantulus revoili)
   North African Elephant Shrew (Duvernoy, 1833) (Elephantulus rozeti)
   Rufous Elephant Shrew (Peters, 1878) (Elephantulus rufescens)
   Western Rock Elephant Shrew (A. Smith, 1831) (Elephantulus rupestris)
 Genus: Macroscelides
   Namib Round-eared Sengi (Lundholm, 1955) (Macroscelides flavicaudatus)
   Etendaka Round-eared Sengi (Dumbacher et al., 2014) (Macroscelides micus)
   Round-eared Sengi (Shaw, 1800) (Macroscelides proboscideus)
 Genus: Petrodromus
  Four-toed Elephant Shrew (Peters, 1846) (Petrodromus tetradactylus)
 Genus: Rhynchocyon
  Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew (Günther, 1881) (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)
  Checkered Elephant Shrew (Peters, 1847) (Rhynchocyon cirnei)
  Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew (Bocage, 1880) (Rhynchocyon petersi)
  Grey-faced Sengi (F. Rovero and G. Rathbun, 2008) (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis)
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