Tenrecs of Madagascar

Tenrecs of Madagascar are naturally found in forest areas. Most of these species exist in the eastern area of rain forests, but Geogale or Echinops are found in spiny desert region in the south-west side of Madagascar. Limnogale mergulus, better known as aquatic tenrec, needs running, clean water. Some of the species like streaked tenrecs and tailless tenrecs can survive pretty well in agricultural land or secondary forest. Mole tenrecs are often seen in rice fields.

Tenrec diet depends on invertebrates mainly. Insects and larvae are generally eaten by tenrecs. Sometimes many of the bigger species take tiny vertebrates like amphibians. Two of these species are very specific about their hunt. Streaked tenrecs hunt mostly light bodied invertebrates and their special choice is earthworms. Generally, large-eared tenrecs like termites as their food that they get inside dead wood. Aquatic tenrec eats a variety of prey in freshwater region, but prefers crayfish and aquatic insect larvae.

Though there exists exceptions but most of these tenrecs grow relatively slowly. These lowland tenrec seems very clever; their offspring touch maturity level quickly than any other related species. The young becomes able to open their eyes after 7-12 days from their birth. They become sexually mature very soon, just 35-40 days are enough. Other spiny tenrecs do not reach maturity level until they becomes 6 months old. Well, lowland streaked tenrecs like to live in multiple groups with a complex social living style. Due to the quickness of maturation and comparatively big litter size, a group family may have over 20 individuals from 3 generations. Using stridulating organs they can easily manage contacting with each other while they forage together.

The large-eared tenrec seems to be very unique among all other tenrecs of Madagascar. It tends to exhibits post-partum oestrus like females are capable to suckle first litter while second one is being developed in uterus. Though it is very common in tiny shrews, this is really unknown in other tenrec families. It may show a clear adaptation to unpredictable condition, enhancing reproductive outcome while favorable weather prevails. Reproductive process also permits female to save her stamina. The large-eared tenrec often enters torpor during her pregnancy and it delays the creation of embryo. This phenomenon is only seen in some bat species.

Although tenrecs of Madagascar have inhabited over 60 million years, possibility is there that many of them may not exist more than a couple of decades. Large portion of these forests in Madagascar is already burnt and cut down and the island is going to lose over 200,000 hectares of forest every year. Here, rain forest which was solid block is now very fragmented in many places. Some tenrec species like the pygmy shrew, four-toed mole tenrec, Microgale parvula, Oryzorictes tetradactylus etc. are seen rarely. Some like montane shrew tenrec, Nasolo's shrew, Microgale monticola and so on have limited distributions only facing a live threat of extinction. Uncontrollable fire and species like rodent, shrew or carnivore may also cause some harm to other species. There exists solid evidence that habitat damage caused by extra tourists in some parks may minimize tenrec species diversity.