Tenrec: Size, Classification, Habitat, Feeding, and More!


A tenrec is any species of mammal that lives only in Madagascar and is in the family Tenrecidae. A tenrec looks a lot like hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, rats, and mice. This is due to convergent evolution. They live in the water, in trees, on the ground, and in caves. Some of these animals, like the greater hedgehog tenrec, live in the dry deciduous forests of Madagascar. But in this group, the rate of species change has been faster in humid forests.

All tenrecs have a relation to a single ancestor who lived 29–37 million years ago (Ma) and came from Africa on a raft. Experts believe that they split from their closest relatives, the African otter shrews, about 47–53 Ma ago.

Tenrecs are any of 29 species of small mammals that look like shrews or hedgehogs. Most are only present on Madagascar and nearby islands, but the otter shrews (subfamily Potamogalinae) are native to the African mainland.

How Big Is A Tenrec?

So, what is a tenrec? The shrew-like tenrecs, like the long-eared tenrec (Geogale aurita), have soft, dense fur and are similar to true shrews (family Soricidae) that live on other continents. Moreover, the long-eared tenrec is a very small animal that lives on the ground. Furthermore, it weighs only 5 to 9 grams (0.2 to 0.3 ounces) and has a body length of 7 cm (2.8 inches) and a shorter tail (3 cm). It is brown on top and white on the bottom.

The 17 species of shrew tenrecs in the genus Microgale are bigger, darker, and can live on land or in trees. Similarly, geogale and Microgale are similar to Asiatic and African white-toothed shrews. Moreover, the three species of rice tenrec (genus Oryzorictes) are burrowers that live in rice fields.

Furthermore, they look like American short-tailed shrews and have dark, velvety fur, small eyes and ears, and long front claws. Besides, limnogale mergulus is the only species in its genus, which consists of the tenrec. Moreover, the amphibious tenrec looks acts and eats like a water shrew. It has feet with webs, a tail with keels, and fur that doesn’t absorb water.

How Does Tenrec Look Like

Tenrecs look like hedgehogs and have big bodies with short or no tails. Furthermore, they can live on the ground or in trees. Moreover, most species have spines that they scrape together to make sounds that help to communicate. So, both the lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi) and the greater hedgehog tenrec (Setifer setosus) can curl up into a ball to protect themselves

The lesser hedgehog tenrec can be up to 18 cm long and weigh up to 250 grams. Let’s talk about the size of lowland streaked tenrec. Moreover, the streaked tenrec is about the same size and has coarse hairs and spines that can come off. The common tenrec, also known as a “tailless” tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus), is the biggest, weighing at least 2 kg (4.4 pounds).


Classification of Tenrec

Tenrecs were thought to be a classic example of how many different species on an island can evolve from a single ancestor. On the other hand, new evidence suggests that the three subfamilies show three separate times when people moved to Madagascar. Tenrec fossils found in Africa are from the Early Miocene Epoch, which took place between 23.8 and 16.4 million years ago. So this suggests that the ancestors of the three living groups in Madagascar may have lived on the continent.

What Threats Are Tenrecs Facing?

The IUCN Red List says that 24 of the 31 tenrec species are of “Least Concern.” One species is “Data Deficient,” four species are “Vulnerable,” and two species are “Endangered.”

Many species of tenrec are in danger of going extinct because there have been more threats to them in the last 50 years. Furthermore, tenrecs are mostly facing the threat of losing their habitat because of deforestation, fragmentation, degradation, hunting, accidental capture, and climate change. Besides, forest-dwelling tenrec species get hurt by practices like slash-and-burn farming, commercial logging, and metal mining. Five out of the six endangered Tenrec species need to live in forests.

Conservation Of Tenrecs

As of 2022, protecting the population of tenrecs is not a top priority. Most tenrecs live in forest habitats, so conservation efforts would need to focus on restoring habitats and stopping deforestation in Madagascar. Moreover, the Madagascar Ankizy Fund, a group of paleontologists from Stony Brook University to help villagers in remote parts of Madagascar get better access to health care and education facilities, is one of the conservation projects going on right now. Apart from this, tenrecs and other animals in Madagascar will benefit in the long run if the people who live there are healthy. Moreover, you should never surge the tenrec.

FAQs About Tenrec

Are Tenrecs And Hedgehogs Related?

Tenrecs live in Madagascar and some parts of the African continent. They look a lot like hedgehogs, but they do not have a relationship.

What Is The Difference Between A Tenrec And A Hedgehog?

Tenrecs have long, thin noses that almost make them look like rats. Tenrecs could be mistaken for rats from a distance if it weren’t for their quills and barely visible tails. Pet hedgehogs have skinny legs like a tenrec. But their front paws have four toes, and their back paws have five.

Are Tenrecs Related To Elephants?

A controversial idea says that they are close relatives. Anatomy researchers may not agree with the theory, but DNA sequences are said to show that elephants and tenrecs are part of a large family that also includes manatees and aardvarks.

Can You Keep A Tenrec As A Pet?

Pet tenrecs aren’t very friendly. They don’t mind being held, but they don’t need people as much as many animals as pets. When they are young, they are more likely to get along with people if someone handles them gently and often.

Do Tenrecs Bite?

In the wild, it would help tenrecs get through the season when it is very hot, and there isn’t much food. They also come out at night and can bite really hard.

Can Tenrecs Eat Eggs?

Lesser hedgehog tenrecs are omnivores. They eat insects and their larvae, spiders, eggs, and sometimes fruit.

What Can I Feed My Tenrec?

You can make your Tenrecs with turkey, chicken, or mince. They also like pinkies and chicks from the day before.

Is The Lowland Streaked Tenrec Endangered

The lowland streaked tenrec falls under the least concern category. It lives in tropical lowland rain forests in the eastern and northern Madagascar parts.

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