Hello our dear readers. Insectivora is a general name applied to any one of about 450 species of mammals, including hedgehogs, moles, shrews, and flint teeth, whose diet consists primarily of insects.
And today we decided to take a closer look at this group of mammals. In this publication, we have collected the most interesting facts about insectivores.
Insectivores make up almost 10% of all mammalian species, and most of them are comparable in size to the gray rat. But there are representatives of smaller dimensions. For example, the pygmy polytooth (Suncus etruscus) has a body weight of only 2.5 grams and is one of the smallest living mammals on the planet.
Other insectivores larger than the gray rat, such as the common gymnura (Echinosorex gymnura) and common tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus), reach the size of a small rabbit.
They have very well developed olfactory lobes of the brain, which indicates their incredibly acute sense of smell. But at the same time, in terms of intelligence (due to the small brain), they are much inferior to other placental mammals. Because of this, they are considered one of the most primitive groups of mammals.
These are rather timid animals with poorly developed vision. Therefore, they are most often active at night and rely on other sensory senses such as touch, smell and hearing when hunting.
One of the strangest representatives of insectivores is the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata), which lives in eastern North America. This species differs from its relatives in that they have eleven skin growths around both nostrils at the tip of the stigma. The animal uses these processes as organs of touch. They are necessary for him to search for worms and other food included in his diet. These appendages move regularly, but so fast that the human eye cannot follow them.
The origin of the name of the detachment Eulipotyphla and Lipotyphla (the obsolete name Insectivora) comes from the ancient Greek words “λίπω” (translated as “lose”) and “τυφλός” (translated as “blind”). This name characterizes one of the features of insectivores – representatives of this order do not have a caecum.
On average, the life expectancy of representatives of this detachment is only 1-6 years. Insectivores usually reach sexual maturity at 3-12 months of their life.
During the year, females can give 1-2 (rarely 3) litters. In litters, usually, from 1 to 14 cubs, initially blind, toothless and completely helpless.
Insectivores have an extremely high metabolic rate. That is why they are incredibly gluttonous creatures. For example, if we talk about small shrews, then they can eat a volume of food per day that is 2 times their body weight. Moreover, if they do not receive energy from food in a timely manner, they will die. Usually shrews can live no more than 5-7 hours without food. In fact, the whole meaning of the life of this insectivore is the search for food.
The flint teeth and shrews belonging to the genera Solenodon, Blarina and Neomys have neurotoxins in the submandibular gland. When the victim is bitten, these substances penetrate into her body. Neurotoxins can lead to the death of small prey. In the case of a person, they cannot cause significant damage to him, but at the same time they will cause prolonged pain at the bite site.
The most primitive, which has not undergone any changes among insectivores, is the hedgehog beloved by many. Unlike hedgehogs, shrews, sloth teeth and moles have undergone some changes in the course of evolution in order to survive in a changing environment.
Recognizing a representative of this detachment is quite simple. The head of these animals is always elongated and flattened, and at the end ends with a small proboscis, which effectively captures all the aromas surrounding it. Some representatives of this detachment do not see the eyes, as they are hidden under the folds of the skin (the same moles).
Representatives of the order Insectivores are found on almost all continents except Antarctica and Australia. They exist in South America, but their species population there is very scarce.
If we talk about our Russian Federation, then the most common families of the order Insectivores in our territory are hedgehogs (Erinaceidae), moles (Talpidae) and shrews (Soricidae).
This order is characterized by the fact that some species fall into diapause (a state of physiological inhibition of metabolism and stop of morphogenesis processes) under adverse weather conditions. For example, a hedgehog enters diapause. He closes the entrance to his hole and falls asleep. Usually diapause in hedgehogs lasts from October to April. At this time, his body temperature drops to 1.8 degrees Celsius, and all metabolic processes in the body slow down. To survive the winter normally, hedgehogs need at least 500 grams of fat reserves.
One of the representatives of the Insectivorous order, the muskrat (aka Russian muskrat) is a rare relict endemic species. Previously, desmans could be found not only in Russia, but even in the British Isles. Today, it is endemic to the countries of the former USSR (to a greater extent, Russia and partly Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus), which is on the verge of extinction. Such a deplorable state of the species was caused by the destruction of its natural habitat, as a result of deforestation, the construction of dams and dams, grazing near water bodies, etc.
Most insectivores feed not only on insects, but also on other invertebrates such as worms, molluscs, spiders, etc. The diet of larger representatives of this order also includes amphibians, lizards and other small animals.
This concludes our article, dear readers. Thank you for choosing ours among all the Internet resources.