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southern short-tailed shrew

Blarina carolinensis

What do they look like?

Southern short-tailed shrews are the smallest shrews of the genus Blarina. They are 75 to 105 mm in length, and the tail is an additional 17 to 30 mm. They weigh between 15 and 30 g. Their back is a grayish slate color, and their underside is a paler shade of gray. They have small eyes, a long, highly moveable nose, and small ears. Because other species of Blarina are found in different areas, southern short-tailed shrews are generally easy to identify in the field. (Nowak, 1999; Wilson and Ruff, 1999)

  • Range mass
    15 to 30 g
    0.53 to 1.06 oz
  • Range length
    75 to 105 mm
    2.95 to 4.13 in

Where do they live?

Southern short-tailed shrews inhabit the southeastern corner of the United States. They can be found as far north as southern Illinois and south-central Virginia and as far south as central Florida. (Whitaker Jr and Hamilton Jr, 1998; Wilson and Ruff, 1999)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Southern short-tailed shrews are most commonly found in moist, well-drained habitats containing woody vegetation. The well-drained soil allows this species to burrow underground and construct nests. Nests are located either underground or beneath decomposing logs or stumps and are composed of shredded grass, roots, dry leaves, and other vegetable material. (Wilson and Ruff, 1999)

How do they reproduce?

Little is known of mating behavior of southern short-tailed shrews.

Southern short-tailed shrews breed twice a year, once between March and June and again between September and November. Gestation ranges between 21 and 30 days. Litter size is 2 to 6 individuals. Young southern short-tailed shrews weigh about 1 g at birth. Females reach sexual maturity at about 6 weeks of age, while males become sexually mature at around 12 weeks of age. (Banfield, 1974; Wilson and Ruff, 1999)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Southern short-tailed shrews breed twice a year.
  • Breeding season
    March to June and September to November.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 6
  • Range gestation period
    21 to 30 days
  • Range weaning age
    18 to 21 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 12 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 to 12 weeks

Young southern short-tailed shrews are born naked and unable to see. They are cared for and nursed by their mother in her nest. After 18 to 20 days, the young begin to venture from the nest and are weaned shortly after that. (Davis and Schmidly, 1997; Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Most southern short-tailed shrews live less than a year in the wild. Individuals in captivity have been recorded living up to 33 months. (George, et al., 1986)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    33 (high) months
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 (high) years

How do they behave?

Southern short-tailed shrews are primarily nocturnal. They spend much of their time in burrows and tunnels underground or in leaf litter. They are solitary and maybe territorial. There is some evidence that they are more active immediately after periods of rainfall.

How do they communicate with each other?

What do they eat?

Southern short-tailed shrews are primarily carnivorous, though they may also eat plant matter like berries. Their diet is composed mainly of soil invertebrates, including earthworms and centipedes. They feed throughout the day but are most active at night and in the early morning and early evening hour. (Davis and Schmidly, 1997; Nowak, 1999)

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Southern short-tailed shrews have a variety of predators. Their main predators include hawks and owls, especially barn owls. Coyotes, red fox, and large snakes are also known to prey on southern short-tailed shrews. (Wilson and Ruff, 1999)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Southern short-tailed shrews are probably one of the most numerous mammalian members of their communities. They represent an important prey base for their predators and influence the composition of invertebrate communities through their own predation.

Do they cause problems?

Southern short-tailed shrews, like their northern cousins, Blarina brevicauda, may have toxins in their saliva (see Comments below). Bites may result in a painful burning sensation that can last some time.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

How do they interact with us?

Southern short-tailed shrews help control insect populations. (Whitaker Jr and Hamilton Jr, 1998)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

Southern short-tailed shrews are abundant in suitable habitats throughout their range.

Some more information...

Southern short-tailed shrews may produce poison in the submaxillary glands like its close relative Blarina brevicauda. This venom is secreted into the saliva and can be injected into prey through a bite wound. Unlike Blarina brevicauda, southern short-tailed shrews do not frequently prey on vertebrates, so they generally may not need to use venom to subdue prey. (Davis and Schmidly, 1997)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Desirae Foust (author), University of Northern Iowa, Jim Demastes (editor), University of Northern Iowa.

References

Banfield, A. 1974. The Mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Davis, W., D. Schmidly. 1997. "The Mammals of Texas-Online Edition" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/blarcaro.htm.

George, S., J. Choate, H. Genoways. 1986. Blarina brevicauda. Mammalian Species, 261: 9.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition VII. Baltimore and London: The John's Hopkins University Press.

Whitaker Jr, J., W. Hamilton Jr. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Foust, D. 2011. "Blarina carolinensis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 16, 2019 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Blarina_carolinensis/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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