Friday, November 30, 2012

Creature Feature: Black-and-Rufous-Sengi.

There are very, very few animal "combinations" that have not been done. You can slap almost any animal onto "fish" and there's probably one or two combinations for it. This is a lot rarer with mammals, but "deermouse" is a notable exception. "Elephant shrew" is a strange, almost contradictory name, which it made complete sense to change.


This is a black-and-rufous sengi (Rhynchocyon petersi). Sengis, also known as elephant shrews, are all native to Africa; there are 16 species total. This one is native to Tanzania and Kenya. Despite its looks, is perfectly capable of eating rodents as well as insects and vegetation. They are not shrews, but have flexible, sensitive noses like elephants, hence the old name.

Elephant shrews are more closely related to elephants than to shrews. They're part of that weird group of mammals called Afrotherians, which, again, has nothing to do with big, poofy hair. Rather, it has to do with elephants, aardvarks, and rodent-like creatures being each other's great, great, greatgreatgreatgreat grandparents, twice removed. It's unbelievable stuff that has been covered several times on this blog.


The weirdness does not stop at elephant shrews/sengis in general. The black-and-rufous sengi is one of the larger sengis, averaging about a foot long from head to rump. The tail can be up to ten inches long.  It is also one of the more colorful sengis, sporting an attractive red and black coat.They are standouts in a group that's already pretty weird.

The black-and-rufous sengi is also on the "vulnerable" list. This is more due to habitat loss than any other factor. Several zoos have breeding programs, most notably the one in Philedelphia, Pennsylvania. Two brothers are born in the National Zoo in Washington D.C. as well. There's no immediate danger, so we'll be able to enjoy these weird little rascals for a long time to come.


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