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Monday, August 16, 2010

Creature Feature - Tenrecs.




Wait...what? Hedgehogs live on Madagascar? Since when?!

Haha. If the title of today's post did not spoil it, that is not a hedgehog. It's a Greater Hedgehog Tenrec (Setifer setosus). It is one member in a family of weird mammals called Tenrecidae. Of course, a fair amount of these guys are native to Madagascar, but they can also be found in other parts of Africa.

This is going to sound unbelievable, but tenrecs are not rodents. Tenrecs - the whole family Tenrecidae - has members that are all scarily similar to rodents, mustelids, and occasionally marsupials that we all know. There is one that looks scarily similar to an otter, and literally swims like a fish.


Best otter cosplay EVER.

Instead of being related to rodents, tenrecs are more closely related to a group of mammals called Afrotherians. Please tell me that you did not just picture that Hedgehog Tenrec up there with a rainbow-colored afro.

The group (people are still unsure of exactly WHAT kind of group)Afrotherians refers to animals such as the hyrax (obscure), the elephant shrew (slightly less obscure), the aardvark (just plain weird), manatees and elephants.

Hold the phone. A little creature like this is related to elephants? How? WHY? Did Africa suddenly start sharing some of Austronesia's weed?!


The tenrec's family portrait.

Of course, this would have been nigh-impossible to figure out without doing extensive gene sequencing. Tenrecs look a LOT like rodents, and have even more weird things about them. If you thought the hedgehog tenrec was cute, congrats- they're popular in the exotic pet trade, and are becoming more and more common as a research subject. The scientists would like to know WTF happened there, too.

Remember that really weird naked mole rat that got its own entry a while back? Tenrecs, although not as close to reptiles and insects as the mole rats, do have a body temp low enough to warrant not having a scrotum, and the females can have as many as 29 teats. They also lack different holes for reproducing and defecating; it's all done through one cloaca. That's how birds and reptiles do it too, BTW; your balls-having dragonsonas have NO place unless you consider dragons mammals (thus defeating the purpose of having a reptilian fursona).

Happy Monday- for real, this time.

3 comments:

  1. Nice Afrotheria pic there...

    also, since you're on the Madagascar and lemur thing, I noticed this current post at tet zoo http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/08/literally_flying_lemurs.php

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  2. At least I didn't give them all poofy haircuts. That's just a Wikipedia pic.

    ...Dang, that's cool! :D

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  3. Hahah you should have posted that Afrodog or whatever from San-X, know what I'm talking about?

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