The Musk shrew is a first guest mammal in our series....well, I'm not sure how you tame a shrew...maybe I have to read Shakespeare again.....but I got a couple of pictures before this tiny creature scarpered into the leaves and undergrowth.
I thought it was a grey shrew, but its ears suggest a musk shrew, and after checking with mammal experts for a positive ID it is a musk shrew. and off he goes....look at his little feet gripping the ground.
- but really, I find them extremely difficult to tell apart. They may look cute, but don't be fooled, as I believe that these animals have to eat their body weight every 24 hours, and are voracious predators. Generally solitary, it chomps down on a range of food such as insects and earthworms, but can also kill and eat other small animals. I understand that they are also venomous, but don't worry, while it may be fatal for insects and small animals, shrew venom is not dangerous to humans. Bites may result in some pain and swelling, but are not usually serious, and fade after a few days. I also looked up and found the following, that the shrew lacks hollow fangs (as in venomous snakes) but instead has a gland that allows saliva to flow with the venom. When the shrew encounters its prey – often an invertebrate, but it can also be a mouse or other vertebrate – it begins biting it, allowing the venomous saliva to flow into the wound. This venom effectively paralyses its prey, but keeps it alive. The shrew can then move it to a cache, available for whenever hunting is not going so great. For an animal that has to eat constantly, this keeps a meal always at the ready. A study shows that a mealworm can be kept, paralysed but alive, for a couple of weeks. While this varies among species, a shrew’s heart rate beats 800 to 1000 times per minute. If you do see one, you will see their jerky, constant movement, and Shrews have been recorded making 12 body movements per second. They’re in constant motion, rarely stopping to sleep. They have a high metabolism, which means they have to eat. A lot.
I think it is quite rare to see one in HK, I have only found three scampering around in all my walks. But I have found quite a few more dead on paths, where they seem to go to die out in the open. WARNING ..the next image may shock a few viewers, of a dead shrew, with ants starting to chop up its decomposing body. this is a grey shrew FYI
The two shrews in Hong Kong can be quite difficult to distinguish apart, and the musk shrew is the larger. Their primitive brain depends more on the sense of smell than on vision. They are considered lucky due to their colloquial name of "money rats" as their chatter sounds like jangling coins. Interestingly, a shrew-like animal is believed to be the ancestor of the insectivorous bats including the horseshoe bat. SEE THEM: The musk shrew is more common especially in urban areas, but also in woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. SPECIES ID: The musk shrew is larger and has prominent nasal features.