- Published: 03 February 2010
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Rolph Krayenhoff, age 11 of Vancouver, .C., for his question:
Which is the smallest mammal?
The pigmy shrew is two inches long plus an inch of tail, On the scales he weighs almost, though not quite, as much as a new dime. Perhaps there is a smaller mammal still waiting to be discovered, but until this happens the pigmy shrew of North America rates the title of World's Smallest Mammal.
You might mistake n shrew for a mouse but he is actually related to the mole. Like the mole, he lives under the surface of the ground, digging and delving for insects, their eggs and their larvae. He is one of our best friends because he destroys many of the pesky insects which destroy our crops and gardens.
There are a number of different. shrews living in different parts of the world. The largest of them is about six inches long plus a few inches of stringy tail. They all have neat velvety coats like their mole relatives, pointed noses, small bright eyes and crisp white whiskers. But the shrews have one feature, their teeth, which sets them apart from all other animals.
The lower front teeth are long and they point straight forward instead of straight upward. The remarkable front upper teeth are curved and pronged with two tines. The shrew's teeth are designed for devouring meat ‑insects, small reptiles and even small mammals,
Some people claim that the shrew is a bloodthirsty little fellow, The true fact is that the tiny creature is always hungry. He feels well fed only when he eats his own weight in food every throe hours. If he went without food for a few hours, as you do between breakfast and lunch, he would starve to death.
For this reason, the little shrew is forever on the prowl day and night, winter and summer. He is a `quick, nervous little animal and, when captured, he becomes so scared. that he may perish from fright. However, the shrew is no sissy. He can endure and remain active in sub‑zero weather and he is always, always ready for a fight. He attacks mice and other animals larger than himself and in most cases , shrew is able to stun these creatures with poisoned saliva which he injects with a bite.
Shrews are not friendly creatures, even among themselves. They often eye each other with a what’s for dinner look. In spite of this fact, the shrews, like all the mammals, are excellent parents.
The tiny mother builds her tiny nest of leaves and soft grasses, It is hidden under a log or stone or simply covered by a pile of fallen leaves, There may be four to ten babies in a litter and the parents have three or four litters during the summer season. The babies of the pigmy shrew are no bigger than bumble bees and ten of them together weigh as much us a teaspoonful of water.
The nervous, energetic life of the shrew does not last very long. The babies born in early spring are oldsters by the fall. If a shrew can escape all his enemies, he can expect a life span of one year.