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Mediterranean Water Shrew (Neomys anomalus)

Diputación de Málaga
Musgaño de Cabrera

Mediterranean Water Shrew (Neomys anomalus)

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Animal Life > Mammals

Identification

It is an insectivore (small and night animal, only feeding on insects) of small size (head-body length 7 to 9 cm) similar to a little mouse with a long prominent snout. It has a silky shiny coat, of dark slate tones, with slightly lighter tones on the belly. Its head and body are of rounded appearance, the ears are covered by hair and it has legs with bare and long fingers. The tail (5 to 7 cm) is long and covered with hair. Males and females only slightly differ on their size.

Where does it live?

It is an endemic species of the Iberian Peninsula. It is a semi-aquatic species. It is linked to the presence of clean and well oxygenated masses of medium and high mountain, with nearby humid forests. It can rise 1,600 meters above the sea level.

How does it live?

Its diet consists of invertebrates (worms, molluscs, insects) which it catches on the forest ground as well as in water.  It is a good swimmer. It has very sensitive whiskers (tactile hairs) on the snout, as well as having a great sense of smell. This enables it to successfully catch its prey on the ground and between the rocks in water. It digs tunnels in the stream riverbanks where it lives. Theses tunnels have two exits, one to the ground and one directly to the water. It is active all year round and have dusk and night habits, although it can also be active during the day.

How does it reproduce?

The shrew's reproduction is not very well known. It is known that it can reproduce at the beginning of spring and autumn and that females can give birth to 5 to 13 offspring per litter. There are no specific studies on the reproduction of the species in the Iberian Peninsula.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

In Málaga it is a new species. Its presence was discovered in 2004, being unknown before. It appeared in the streams of the Sierra Tejeda and Sierra de Camarolos. Later, it has been discovered in a stream of the Sierra de las Nieves. The size and state of the population is unknown, but it is known that it is one of the few existing in Andalusia. It is not present in any stage of the Great Path (the Gran Senda).

Curious facts

Shrews are one of the few existing poisonous mammals. They secrete a narcotic substance with the saliva used to numb their prey. It does not affect humans. The bite affects the invertebrates nervous and respiratory systems, producing uncoordination in the victim, which is paralyzed and suffers convulsions. The shrew term means "little mouse in the shape of a shrew". Ángel Cabrera y Latorre (1879-1960) was one of the greatest Spanish zoologists, in charge of the work Fauna Iberica: mammals (1914), in which he described many of the Spanish mammals. Among them, he described this new species, which he called Neomys (for being new in aquatic life) and anomalus for being different from other shrews existing in Northern Spain.

Similar species

It is a very characteristic species. It can be confused with shrews, insectivores of a similar look. Shrews do not have aquatic habits, their snout is more elongated and the head is less rounded. It clearly differs from mice in its global aspect. Mice do not have an elongated snout, their ears are more visible on the head, the tail is shorter and of a different shape and they do not have aquatic habits.

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