Soricidae – Shrews

While they may appear small and unimportant, shrews are among the most voracious predators on our planet

More commonly known as shrews, it encompasses a diverse and fascinating group of small mammals that play crucial roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. Despite their superficial resemblance to mice, shrews are not rodents but belong to the order Soricomorpha, which also includes moles. This distinction underscores the unique evolutionary path that shrews have followed, resulting in a wide range of adaptations that allow them to thrive in almost every terrestrial habitat across the globe, with the notable exceptions of Australia, southern South America, and the polar regions.

Shrews are characterized by their diminutive size, with most species being extremely small. This small size is accompanied by correspondingly small eyes, which are often not very effective for vision. However, what shrews lack in size and visual acuity, they make up for with their astonishingly high metabolic rates. These high metabolic rates necessitate constant foraging, as shrews need to consume an amount of food equivalent to their body weight daily to survive. This relentless need to feed drives their behavior and affects their life history traits, such as reproductive rate and lifespan.

A remarkable aspect of the Soricidae family is that some species possess venomous saliva, a rare trait among mammals. This venom allows them to subdue larger prey, providing them with a significant advantage in securing food. The presence of venom in shrews highlights the diverse evolutionary strategies that have evolved within this family to meet the challenges of survival.

Despite their preference for moist microhabitats, such as forests and meadows, where they can find ample food and shelter, shrews display remarkable ecological versatility. Some species have adapted to life in arid desert environments, while others are semiaquatic, skillfully hunting in water for aquatic insects and small fish. This adaptability is a testament to the evolutionary success of shrews and their ability to colonize a wide range of environments.