Cretan Fauna

Shrew

Shrew
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The Cretan white-toothed shrew (scient. Crocidura zimmermanni) is the only endemic mammal in Greece, found only in Crete, but it is displaced by the introduced lesser white-teethed shrew (scient. Crocidura suaveolens). Moreover, the smallest mammal of the world, the Etruscan shrew, is the third species of shrew met in Crete.

The Cretan white-toothed shrew (Crocidura zimmermanni)

The Cretan white-toothed shrew (scient. Crocidura zimmermanni) is the only endemic mammal in Greece and is found only in Crete. It’s population is distributed in the three major mountain ranges of Crete (White Mountains, Ida, Dikti) at an altitude of 1200m.

The tiny animal belongs to the family of Soricidae and is reminiscent of a mouse with a small size, long narrow nose and short grayish hair. It has small ears and very small, almost atrophic, eyes. Its teeth are sharp, while smelling and hearing are well developed, in contrast to its vision.

The shrew spends most of its time sleeping alone in underground tunnels. In the morning and at dusk it leaves its nest and hunts insects, grubs and worms. It is more active on summer, when it mates. It gives birth within 20 days and bears 3-10 blind babies, which usually live for 1-6 years.

The species lives at an altitude of 1200m, since it displaced by the imported species of the common shrew (Crocidura suaveolens) at lower altitudes. Indeed, because of this displacement to small plateaus and poljes on high mountains, the species is endangered with extinction. The future looks more difficult as the raise of temperature is expected to help prevailing common shrew dominate at even higher altitude.

The Lesser White-toothed Shrew (Crocidura suaveolens)

The Lesser White-toothed Shrew (scient. Crocidura suaveolens) is a tiny shrew found throughout Europe. The species has been introduced in Crete as well and has spread all over the island. The main problem with this introduction, as already mentioned, is the displacement of the weaker indigenous Cretan shrew to mountains and the probability of extinction.

It has similar behavior and characteristics to that of the Cretan shrew. It is noteworthy to mention that the female lesser white-toothed shrews and their youngsters may form a "caravan" when foraging for food or seeking a place of safety. Indeed, each shrew grips the tail of the shrew in front so that the group stays together.

The Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus)

The Etruscan shrew (scient. Suncus etruscus), also known as the Etruscan pygmy shrew or the white-toothed pygmy shrew is the smallest known mammal by mass, weighing only about 1.8 grams on average!

This is the third species of shrew met quite rarely in the island of Crete, being distributed almost wherever the climate is warm, from Malaysia to Europe. The Etruscan shrew has a body length of about 4 cm excluding the tail. It is characterized by very rapid movements and a fast metabolism, eating about 1.5–2 times its own body weight per day. It feeds on various small vertebrates and invertebrates, mostly insects, and can hunt individuals of the same size as itself.

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