Friday, 24 April 2015

Lowland Streaked Tenrec

Lowland streaked Tenrec in Madagascar
Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Afrosoricida
Family: Tenrecidae
Genus: Hemicentetes
Species: Hemicentetes semispinosus
Conservation Status: Least Concern (Not Threatened)
Common Name(s): Lowland Streaked Tenrec

This cute little creature is a lowland streaked tenrec, a small tenrec (a member of the family Tenrecidae) found in Madagascar. And no, it may look like one but it's not a porcupine!

The Lowland Streaked Tenrec is found in tropical lowland rain forests, in the northern and eastern parts of Madagascar, occurring from sea level to 1,550 m asl. They prefer primary and secondary tropical humid forests, but are a common sight in agricultural land and gardens.

Madagascar, distribution map of Lowland Streaked Tenrec
Lowland Streaked Tenrec Distribution Map

It is a small mammal, with a relatively long snout and limbs, and a vestigial tail. They are 12.2-16.5 cm long (head to body) and have an average weight of 200 grams.

The fur is black with yellow longitudinal stripes dorsally, light beneath. Some of the scattered porcupine-like quills are barbed and detachable.

When threatened by a predator like a fossa (cat-like, carnivorous mammals from Madagascar) or a Malagasy mongoose, a streaked tenrec erects the barbed quills on its back and on the crest around its head, pointing them forward, directly in to the attacker's nose or paws with body and head movements.

The nonbarbed quills are clustered in the middle of the back, and produce a faint chattering sound when vibrated, used primarily for communication within family groups.

In captivity, average lifespan is 2.7 years and smaller in the wild.

Video from Lost Worlds with David Attenborough showing how the animal uses it's specialized quills for communication

They primarily feed on earthworms, but occasionally on insects as well.

Behavior & Reproduction
The species is active during day and night.

Females will fight off males if they do not want to reproduce and males will fight with other males to get female attention.

Breeding occurs during October to December and possibly at other times, depending upon food availability and temperature. The gestation period lasts 58 days, and the female gives birth to usually 5 to 8 youngs. The youngs are weaned after approximately 18 to 25 days

Conservation Status & Threats
The species appears to be very abundant even in urban areas. There are no known major threats although it is sometimes hunted for food.

Interesting Facts
- The streaked tenrec is the only mammal known to use stridulation (producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts), a method more commonly associated with insects and snakes. When separated they can ommunicate by using their quills to produce a highly pitched noise to find each other!
- Not to be confused with the similarly looking and closely related highland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps) which lives in the central upland regions of Madagascar.

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