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A tenrec is any species of mammal within the family Tenrecidae, found on Madagascar and in parts of the African mainland[2] Tenrecs are widely diverse; as a result of convergent evolution they resemble hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, mice and even otters They occupy aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial and fossorial environments Some of these species, including the greater hedgehog tenrec, can be found in the Madagascar dry deciduous forests


  • 1 Characteristics
  • 2 Interaction with humans
  • 3 Species
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Tenrecs are small mammals of variable body form The smallest species are the size of shrews, with a body length of around 45 cm 18 in, and weighing just 5 g 018 oz, while the largest, the common or tailless tenrec, is 25 to 39 cm 98 to 154 in in length, and can weigh over 1 kilogram 22 lb[3] Although they may resemble shrews, hedgehogs, or otters, they are not closely related to any of these groups, their closest relatives being other African insectivorous mammals, such as golden moles and elephant shrews The common ancestry of these animals, along with aardvarks, hyraxes, elephants, and sea cows in the group Afrotheria, was not recognized until the late 1990s[4] Continuing work on the molecular[5][6] and morphological[7][8][9][10] diversity of afrotherian mammals has provided ever increasing support for their common ancestry

Unusual among placental mammals, the anus and urogenital tracts of tenrecs share a common opening, or cloaca, a feature more commonly seen in birds, reptiles, and amphibians They have a low body temperature, sufficiently so that they do not require a scrotum to cool their sperm as do most other mammals[3][11]

All species appear to be at least somewhat omnivorous, with invertebrates forming the largest part of their diets The three species found on the African mainland Potamogale velox, Micropotamogale lamottei, M ruwenzorii have more specialized diets, centered on their habitat in fast-running streams of the African tropics, from Liberia in the west to Lake Victoria in the east One species from Madagascar, Limnogale mergulus, is also semiaquatic[12] All of the species from Madagascar, semiaquatic or not, appear to have evolved from a single, common ancestor, with the mainland tenrecs comprising the next, most-closely related mammalian species[13][14] While the fossil record of tenrecs is scarce, at least some specimens from the early Miocene of Kenya show close affinities to living species from Madagascar,[15] such as Geogale aurita

Most species are nocturnal and have poor eyesight Their other senses are well developed, however, and they have especially sensitive whiskers As with many of their other features, the dental formula of tenrecs varies greatly between species; they can have from 32 to 42 teeth in total Unusual for mammals, the permanent dentition in tenrecs tends not to completely erupt until well after adult body size has been reached[16] This is one of several anatomical features shared by elephants, hyraxes, sengis, and golden moles but apparently not aardvarks, consistent with their descent from a common ancestor

Tenrecs have a gestation period of 50 to 64 days, and give birth to a number of relatively undeveloped young While the otter shrews have just two young per litter, the tailless tenrec can have as many as 32, and females possess up to 29 teats, more than any other mammal[3] At least some tenrec species are social, living in multigenerational family groups with over a dozen individuals

Interaction with humans

In the island nation of Mauritius, and also on the Comoran island of Mayotte, some of the inhabitants eat tenrec meat, though it is difficult to obtain as it is not sold in shops or markets and difficult to prepare correctly

The lesser hedgehog tenrec Echinops telfairi is one of 16 mammalian species that will have its genome sequenced as part of the Mammalian Genome Project It is increasingly popular in the pet trade, and in the future may serve as an important model organism in biomedicine, as it is only distantly related to the mice, rats, guinea pigs, and rhesus macaques that comprise the most common research animals


The four subfamilies, 10 genera, and 34 species of tenrecs are:[17]


  • Subfamily Geogalinae
    • Genus Geogale
      • Large-eared tenrec Geogale aurita
  • Subfamily Oryzorictinae
    • Genus Limnogale
      • Web-footed tenrec Limnogale mergulus
    • Genus Microgale
      • Short-tailed shrew tenrec Microgale brevicaudata
      • Cowan's shrew tenrec Microgale cowani
      • Dobson's shrew tenrec Microgale dobsoni
      • Drouhard's shrew tenrec Microgale drouhardi
      • Dryad shrew tenrec Microgale dryas
      • Pale shrew tenrec Microgale fotsifotsy
      • Gracile shrew tenrec Microgale gracilis
      • Grandidier's shrew tenrec Microgale grandidieri
      • Naked-nosed shrew tenrec Microgale gymnorhyncha
      • Jenkins' shrew tenrec Microgale jenkinsae
      • Northern shrew tenrec Microgale jobihely
      • Lesser long-tailed shrew tenrec Microgale longicaudata
      • Microgale macpheei extinct
      • Major's long-tailed tenrec Microgale majori
      • Montane shrew tenrec Microgale monticola
      • Nasolo's shrew tenrec Microgale nasoloi
      • Pygmy shrew tenrec Microgale parvula
      • Greater long-tailed shrew tenrec Microgale principula
      • Least shrew tenrec Microgale pusilla
      • Shrew-toothed shrew tenrec Microgale soricoides
      • Taiva shrew tenrec Microgale taiva
      • Talazac's shrew tenrec Microgale talazaci
      • Thomas's shrew tenrec Microgale thomasi
    • Genus Oryzorictes
      • Mole-like rice tenrec Oryzorictes hova
      • Four-toed rice tenrec Oryzorictes tetradactylus
  • Subfamily Potamogalinae
    • Genus Micropotamogale
      • Nimba otter shrew Micropotamogale lamottei
      • Ruwenzori otter shrew Micropotamogale ruwenzorii
    • Genus Potamogale
      • Giant otter shrew Potamogale velox
  • Subfamily Tenrecinae
    • Genus Echinops
      • Lesser hedgehog tenrec Echinops telfairi
    • Genus Hemicentetes
      • Highland streaked tenrec Hemicentetes nigriceps
      • Lowland streaked tenrec Hemicentetes semispinosus
    • Genus Setifer
      • Greater hedgehog tenrec Setifer setosus
    • Genus Tenrec
      • Common tenrec Tenrec ecaudatus

See also

  • Convergent evolution
  • List of mammals of Madagascar


  1. ^ Martin Pickford 2015 "Late Eocene Potamogalidae and Tenrecidae Mammalia from the Sperrgebiet, Namibia" PDF Communications of the Geological Survey of Namibia 16: 114–152 
  2. ^ Olson, Link E "Tenrecs" Current Biology 23 1: R5–R8 doi:101016/jcub201211015 
  3. ^ a b c Nicholl, Martin 1984 Macdonald, D, ed The Encyclopedia of Mammals New York: Facts on File pp 744–747 ISBN 0-87196-871-1 
  4. ^ Stanhope, MJ; Waddell, VG; Madsen, O; de Jong, W; Hedges, SB; Cleven, GC; Kao, D; Springer, MS 1998 "Molecular evidence for multiple origins of Insectivora and for a new order of endemic African insectivore mammals" PNAS 95 17: 9967–72 doi:101073/pnas95179967 PMC 21445  PMID 9707584 
  5. ^ Springer MS, Stanhope MJ, Madsen O, de Jong WW 2004 "Molecules consolidate the placental mammal tree" Trends Ecol Evol 19 8: 430–438 doi:101016/jtree200405006 PMID 16701301 
  6. ^ Robinson, T J Fu, B Ferguson-Smith, M A Yang, F 2004 "Cross-species chromosome painting in the golden mole and elephant-shrew: support for the mammalian clades Afrotheria and Afroinsectiphillia but not Afroinsectivora" Proceedings of the Royal Society B 271 1547: 1477–84 doi:101098/rspb20042754 PMC 1691750  PMID 15306319 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  7. ^ Asher RJ; Bennet N; Lehmann T 2009 "The new framework for understanding placental mammal evolution" BioEssays 31 8: 853–64 doi:101002/bies200900053 PMID 19582725 
  8. ^ Tabuce, R; Marivaux, L; Adaci, M; Bensalah, M; Hartenberger, J-L; Mahboubi, M; Mebrouk, F; Tafforeau, P; Jaeger, J-J 2007 "Early tertiary mammals from North Africa reinforce the molecular Afrotheria clade" Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274 1614: 1159–66 doi:101098/rspb20060229 PMC 2189562  PMID 17329227 
  9. ^ Seiffert, E 2007 "A new estimate of afrotherian phylogeny based on simultaneous analysis of genomic, morphological, and fossil evidence" BMC Evol Biol 7 224: 13 doi:101186/1471-2148-7-224 PMC 2248600  PMID 17999766 
  10. ^ Sanchez-Villagra, M R, Narita, Y and Kuratani, S 2007 "Thoracolumbar vertebral number: the first skeletal synapomorphy for afrotherian mammals" Syst Biodivers 5 1: 1–17 doi:101017/S1477200006002258 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  11. ^ "The Evolutionary Origin of Descending Testicles" Retrieved 2018-07-10 
  12. ^ Benstead, J P; L E Olson 2003 "Limnogale mergulus, web-footed tenrec or aquatic tenrec" In S M Goodman and J P Benstead The natural history of Madagascar Chicago: University of Chicago Press pp 1267–73 ISBN 9780226303079  Missing or empty |title= helpCS1 maint: Uses editors parameter link
  13. ^ Olson LE, Goodman SM 2003 "Phylogeny and biogeography of tenrecs" In Goodman SM, Benstead JP The Natural History of Madagascar Chicago: Chicago University Press pp 1235–42 ISBN 9780226303079 CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter link
  14. ^ Poux C; Madsen O; Glos J; de Jong WW; Vences M 2008 "Molecular phylogeny and divergence times of Malagasy tenrecs: influence of data partitioning and taxon sampling on dating analyses" BMC Evol Biol 8: 102 doi:101186/1471-2148-8-102 PMC 2330147  PMID 18377639 
  15. ^ Asher RJ, Hofreiter M 2006 "Tenrec phylogeny and the noninvasive extraction of nuclear DNA" Syst Biol 55 2: 181–94 doi:101080/10635150500433649 PMID 16522569 
  16. ^ Asher, R J & Lehmann, T 2008 "Dental eruption in afrotherian mammals" BMC Biol 6: 14 doi:101186/1741-7007-6-14 PMC 2292681  PMID 18366669 
  17. ^ Bronner, GN; Jenkins, PD 2005 "Order Afrosoricida" In Wilson, DE; Reeder, DM Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed Johns Hopkins University Press pp 72–77 ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 OCLC 62265494 

External links

  • Bizarre mammals filmed calling using their quills at BBC Online, video with commentary by Sir David Attenborough
  • View the echTel2 genome assembly in the UCSC Genome Browser
  • Podcast about hibernation which focusses on tenrecs in the last third

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