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Elephant shrew

Short-eared elephant-shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus) - A "living fossil" from the Namib-desert

Somehow the small elephant-shrews remind us of shrews, as indicated by their English name. So for a long time zoologists put them - together with the shrews - into the group of the insectivores. But nowadays it is known that elephant shrews form a very old order of mammals themselves. The Short-eared elephant shrew is one of 15 species of this order. Already 30 million years ago there have been mammals living in Africa, which were very similar to the elephant-shrews living nowadays. Species surviving such long periods without remarkable changes are known as "living fossils".

Although they are just 12 cm long, Short-eared elephant-shrews are of very outstanding appearance: They have a lengthened nose, forming a movable trunk, which is well suited for searching for worms, ants, termites, spiders and other invertebrates. Their legs are long and thin. Especially the hind legs are very lenghtened enabling elephant-shrews to move in a jumping way. They also have long tails, reminding of rats, and large eyes and ears.

Short-eared elephant-shrews inhabit dry steppes and stone deserts of Southwestern Africa. They even can be found in the Namib-desert, one of the dryest regions of the earth. Elephant-shrews live in pairs and defend territories. Females drive away other females while males try to get rid off other males. Although they live in pairs, the partners don't care very intensively about each other: Social behaviours are not very common and they even have seperate nests. The one or two young are well developed at birth. They are able to run around just a few hours after birth.


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