Lowland Streaked Tenrec

tenrec

Photo Credit: bugbog.com

The Lowland Streaked Tenrec lives only in eastern Madagascar, where it is found in the forest near bodies of water. This extraordinary little mammal is an insectivore, which means that it only eats insects, and this tenrec dines primarily on earthworms. Its body is covered with a mixture of fur and quills, some of which are barbed and detachable. When threatened, the tenrec will raise the quills around its neck and lunge toward a predator, causing the quills to lodge into flesh and detach. This small creature only weighs 7.5 ounces at most, and is approximately 6 inches long at adulthood, including the tail.

The Lowland Streaked Tenrec lives in underground burrows in family groups, which is a unique social behavior among tenrecs. Burrows may hold up to 20 individuals, and are disguised with detritus that the tenrecs use to cover burrow entrances and exits. A “toilet” site is located outside of the burrow. Family members forage together both during the day and night, searching the leaf litter for insects with their sensitive, pointed snouts.

The Streaked Tenrec has developed a novel method of communication which no other mammal uses; stridulation. Stridulation is the rubbing together of certain body parts to produce sound, and the Streaked Tenrec achieves this end with its quills. The tenrec vibrates specialized, permanent quills on its back to produce an insect-like chirping noise that is used to communicate with family members, primarily while foraging. These noises are undetectable to the human ear, but, using a device that converts bat ultrasounds into audible frequencies, BBC managed to capture and film the stridulation of the Streaked Tenrec. This video clip is the first and only recording of tenrecs communicating with their quills.

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