Elephantulus rozetiNorth African elephant-shrew(Also: North African sengi)

Geographic Range

Elephantulus rozeti is the only elephant-shrew, or sengi, (Macroscelidea) species that resides north of the Sahara. North African elephant-shrews occur in two disjunct populations: the first in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and the second in Libya. (Grzimek, 2003)

Habitat

North African elephant-shrews occur in semi-arid savanna, bushland, shrubland, and woodland. (Grzimek, 2003)

Physical Description

North African elephant-shrews are roughly rodent-like in appearance, with a small body, large ears, and long tails. They weigh about 50g (very light compare to other genera in the same order). The head/body length is from 11 to 12.5 cm. The tail length is from 13 to 16 cm. The average body temperature is 33.6ºC. The fur on the dorsal side varies from yellowish brown to pale sandy-pink, and the fur on the ventral side is white. (Grzimek, 1990; Rathbun, 2005)

Elephant-shrews have long flexible snouts (probosci) that give them their names. The snout can be moved in a circular fashion. When they forage, they poke their snout into crevices or leaf litter, sniffing for food. The nostrils are located at the anterior end of the snout. Long sensory whiskers (vibrissae) arise from the base of the snout. (Grzimek, 2003)

The hindlimbs, which superficially resemble those of small antelopes, are longer than the forelimbs. This unique characteristic is probably an adaptation for cursorial and ricochetal locomotion. The tibia and fibula are long and fused. The metatarsals are lengthened, and the ulna and radius are also long, thus lengthening the stride and contributing to high-speed running and jumping. (Grzimek, 2003)

Members of this species have well-developed glands under the tail, which they use for marking territory. (Grzimek, 1990)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    25 to 70 g
    0.88 to 2.47 oz
  • Average mass
    52 g
    1.83 oz
  • Range length
    11 to 12.5 cm
    4.33 to 4.92 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.288 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Elephantulus rozeti individuals breed seasonally, usually from January to August, depending on their environment. Information on the mating behavior of this species is not available. However, mating behavior of Elephantulus rufescens was observed in the lab. Males and females exhibit facultative monogamy. The mating process is brief, usually lasting 2 to 3 minutes. Both mates are seemingly alert during copulation in case the need arises for flight. (Lumpkin and Koontz, 1986)

Females tend to dominate males during mating. Either the male or the female initiates sexual behavior by approaching the mate and sniffing the face (naso-facial contact). After making facial contact, both mates practice “mechanical walking”, in which the elephant-shrew straightens its legs, so that it appears taller than normal, and moves toward the mate with short rigid steps. The male then sniffs the genitals of the female. At the same time, the female circles the male and sniffs him. (Lumpkin and Koontz, 1986)

Females often mark with their vagina as they approach the males. During mating, the male does not strongly grip the female with his forelimbs and there is no neck bite. After one to ten, or more, precopulatory attempts, the female stands for mounting. Her hind legs are fully extended and her rump is elevated. All her paws remained flat on the ground. The ventral surface and tail are held off the ground and the tail is bent to one side. (Lumpkin and Koontz, 1986)

A female bears 1 to 4 young, the most common number being 2. In the north and northwest of Morocco it is more common for females to bear 3 or 4 young. In favorable conditions the mating period begins in January and ends in August. In regions with harsh climates, such as in the high plains of Algeria and Morocco, where the winter is cold, the first births are at the end of April. In more temperate regions, such as Tunisia and certain parts of Morocco, births begin in March. Two weeks after birth, the young emerge from their shelter, weaned and able to forage. (Grzimek, 2003; Seguignes, 1989)

  • Breeding interval
    Elephantulus rozeti individuals breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    The mating period begins in January and ends in August.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
    2
  • Average number of offspring
    2.5
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    75 (low) days
  • Average weaning age
    2 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    6 to 10 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    40 to 50 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    40 to 50 days

North African elephant-shrew young are precocial. They are born with their eyes open and are covered in fur. They are able to move about and explore within a few days after their birth. The infants are left alone most of the time in a shelter separate from the parents' shelter. The mother comes back only to nurse at fixed intervals (absentee parental care). After about a week, the young can eat mashed insects in addition to milk. (Grzimek, 2003)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Information on the lifespan of E. rozeti is not available. The average lifespan of Elephantulus is 1 to 1.5 years in the wild and 3-4 years in captivity. The longest known lifespan of a E. rozeti was about 7 years, though the age of the animal was not scientifically determined. (Awaad and Weinstein, 2001)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 7.2 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 1.5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 years

Behavior

Elephantulus rozeti are solitary animals. They form monogamous pairs to defend their territories. Usually, males fight off male rivals and females fight off female intruders. They scent-mark their territories with secretion from body glands. Foot-drumming and tail-slapping are classical behaviors of this species when it is in stressful situations. Elephantulus rozeti and other soft-furred macroscelids are also known for constructing complicated trail systems. (Grzimek, 2003; Rathbun, 2005; Schlitter, et al., 2005)

Specific behaviors of E. rozeti in the wild are not well-documented. However, some inferences from other members of Elephantulus might be made. Most of daily activity of Elephantulus rufescens involves "trail cleaning.” Trails are escape routes, which are constructed and maintained by removing leaves and loose debris with laterally directed forefoot sweeps. Except for foraging, activities are confined to these trails. (Schlitter, et al., 2005)

Elephant-shrews are seemingly alert at all times. Some species do not sleep with their eyes shut though they may close the eyes for 2 to 3 minutes. Usually, when they rest, they put their feet under the body, probably to facilitate rapid escape. Rest spots, established at various points along trails, are used for a short period and then abandoned. They do not use burrows, tree holes, nests or other secure retreats. (Schlitter, et al., 2005)

Low temperatures (below 25oC) or lack of food may cause members of this species to enter daily torpor, and their body temperatures may drop to as low as 5oC. Curiously, unlike most small mammals that use torpor to survive adverse conditions, they do not roll into a ball and reduce their surface areas when they enter torpor. Rather, they crouch with their snouts resting on the ground, and their eyes remain slightly open. No species of Elephantulus is known to build or use insulated nests either in captivity or in the wild. (Lovegrove, et al., 2001)

Home Range

Information on home range in this species is not available.

Communication and Perception

Elephantulus rozeti use their long snouts to search for food under leaves or rocks, probably relying on their senses of touch and smell. They use chemical secreted from tail glands to mark territories. Females of the species scent-mark with their vagina when they circle around their potential mates. (Grzimek, 1990; Lumpkin and Koontz, 1986)

Food Habits

Elephant-shrews primarily eat insects. The specific diet for E. rozeti is unknown, but other Elephantulus species eat termites and ants, as well as shoots, berries, and roots. In captivity they accept various foods, including fruits and vegetables. (Awaad and Weinstein, 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

North African elephant-shrews can run and jump quickly to escape from predators. They may also freeze when they detect a threat. In this case, they may simply sit still and slap their elongated tail against the leaf litter. The color of their fur often remarkably resembles that of the soil (some shade of yellowish brown), which helps them to be camouflaged. Elephant-shrews are preyed on by large snakes, birds of prey, and medium-sized carnivorous mammals, such as foxes (Vulpes) and mustelids (Mustelidae). (Grzimek, 2003; Grzimek, 2003; "BEST CLIPS: Digests and Excerpts of Printed Topics Gathered from the Past and the Present", 2006)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic
  • Known Predators
    • hawks (Accipitridae)
    • snakes (Serpentes)
    • carnivorous mammals

Ecosystem Roles

This species is insectivorous and may play a role in regulating the populations of some insect species.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

With their mainly insectivorous diets, North African elephant-shrews are significant natural checks on the abundance of insects that might otherwise negatively affect human health and agriculture. (Grzimek, 2003)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative effects of Elephantulus rozeti on humans.

Conservation Status

North African elephant-shrews are not currently considered endangered. ("African Insectivora and Elephant-Shrews. An Action Plan for their Conservation", 1990)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Ran Tao (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree-Shrew and Elephant-Shrew Specialist Group. African Insectivora and Elephant-Shrews. An Action Plan for their Conservation. ISBN 2-8317-0020-5. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 1990. Accessed February 15, 2006 at http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/eshrews/IUCN_1990_African_Insectivora_and_Elephant_Shrews.pdf.

Senior Scribe Publications. 2006. "BEST CLIPS: Digests and Excerpts of Printed Topics Gathered from the Past and the Present" (On-line). Animal: Elephant Shrews. Accessed April 02, 2006 at http://bestclips.com/index/clips/view_unit/146/?letter=A&spage=1.

Awaad, R., B. Weinstein. 2001. "Animal Diversity Web" (On-line). Elephantulus rufescens. Accessed March 23, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elephantulus_rufescens.html.

Grzimek, B. 1990. Elephant Shrews. Pp. 524-531 in S Parker, ed. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1, English Language Edition. United States: McGraw-Hill Inc..

Grzimek, B. 2003. Macroscelidea Sengis. Pp. 517-531 in D Kleiman, V Geist, M McDade, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 16 Mammals V, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI.: Gale Group.

Lovegrove, B., J. Raman, M. Perrin. 2001. Heterothermy in elephant shrews, Elephantulus spp. (Macroscelidea): daily torpor or hybernation?. J Comp Physiol, 171: 1-10. Accessed February 15, 2006 at http://www.springerlink.com/media/23tyjpvulk2xtrjgvkwp/contributions/t/p/e/j/tpej79vv9wkvwy1x.pdf.

Lumpkin, S., F. Koontz. 1986. Social and Sexual Behavior of the Rufous Elephant-Shrew (Elephantulus rufescens) in Captivity. Journal of Mammalogy, 67/1: 112-119.

Rathbun, G. 2005. "Elephant-shrews or Sengis" (On-line). Accessed April 19, 2006 at http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/eshrews/synopsis.html.

Schlitter, D., D. Wilson, D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World 3rd ed.. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Seguignes, M. 1989. Contribution to the study of breeding in Elephantulus rozeti (Insectivora, Macroscelididae). Mammalia, 53/3: 377-386. Accessed April 12, 2006 at http://www.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=2470060.