The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts About the Solenodon
Solenodons look like large, plump shrews with elongated snouts and multicolored fur. They grow to about a foot long, and their naked, scaly tails can add another 10 inches. Solenodons are some of the most unique and rare mammals in the world. Solenodon-like animals lived all over North America 30 million years ago, but today […]
SOLENODONS LOOK LIKE large, plump shrews with elongated snouts and multicolored fur. They grow to about a foot long, and their naked, scaly tails can add another 10 inches.
Solenodons are some of the most unique and rare mammals in the world. Solenodon-like animals lived all over North America 30 million years ago, but today they are only found on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola.
The two living solenodon species are the Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubansus) and the larger Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus).
They are unique among mammals, having diverged from other mammals around 76 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. Read on to meet these weird critters.
1. Solenodons have unusually flexible snouts. The Hispaniolan solendon has a ball-and-socket joint at the base of its snout, similar to a human shoulder joint. This increases its mobility and allows it to use its snout to explore narrow crevices for potential prey.
2. They eat anything their snouts can sniff out. Solenodons find food by rooting in the ground with their snouts and tearing into rotten logs and trees with their powerful foreclaws. Their diet consists mostly of insects, worms, and other invertebrates, but they also feed on fruits, roots, vegetables, and small vertebrates. In captivity, solendons have been known to drink only while bathing.
3. They’re venomous. Solendons are one of only a few venomous mammals. Other venomous mammals, like the duck-billed platypus, are only capable of passively conveying venom; the solenodon actually injects its venom like a snake through specially modified teeth. The second lower incisors have special grooves through which venom flows. In fact, the name “solenodon” is derived from the Greek for “grooved tooth.”
4. They smell like goats. Solenodons have glands in their armpits and groins that secrete what is said to be a musky, goat-like odor.
5. Solenodons sleep the day away in burrows. They’re nocturnal, hiding during the day in burrows, caves, or hollowed out logs.
6. They sound like birds or pigs. Solenodons grunt like pigs when they feel threatened, and also make bird-like cries.
7. Solenodons depend on senses other than sight. Solendons have tiny eyes and poor vision, but they possess highly developed senses of hearing, touch, and smell.
8. Solenodon nipples are located near their rumps. The female solenodon gives birth to one to three young at a time, but only two will survive. She only has two nipples, and they’re located toward her back, almost on her buttocks. Young solenodons stay with their mothers for several months, which is long compared with other insectivores.
9. Solenodons have a funny way of getting around. Solenodons have a clumsy gait and are incapable of jumping, although they can run and climb surprisingly fast. When they run, they do so on their toes, going in a zig-zagged course. When alarmed, they might trip over their own toes and even tumble head-over-heels.
10.They’re easy prey for introduced predators. Because of their ungainly gait, solenodons have made easy picking for introduced predators such as cats, dogs, and mongooses. They have also been observed to stop, sit still, and hide their heads when predators pursue them.