Crocidura olivieri (Lesson, 1827)

Russell A. Mittermeier & Don E. Wilson, 2018, Soricidae, Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 8 Insectivores, Sloths and Colugos, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 332-551 : 534

publication ID 10.5281/zenodo.6870843


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scientific name

Crocidura olivieri


396. View Plate 24: Soricidae

African Giant White-toothed Shrew

Crocidura olivieri View in CoL

French: Crocidure d'Olivier / German: Afrikanische RiesenweiRzahnspitzmaus / Spanish: Musarana gigante de Africa

Other common names: African Giant Shrew, Olivier's Shrew

Taxonomy. Sorex olivieri Lesson, 1827 ,

Sakkara , Egypt. Restricted by G. B. Corbet in 1978 to “ near Giza,” based on neotype selection.

Crocidura olivier almost certainly represents a species complex. Genetic studies have found that C. olivier: seems to cluster into five major paraphyletic clades that also encompass C. somalica , C. viaria , and C. fulvastra . The most basal clade is from Malawi and Mozambique, followed by

those from Central African Republic and the Congo Basin, which are sister to C. somalica . Crocidura goliath is sister to the other three clades, C. viaria , and C. Julvastra. Northern and eastern African populations clustered together, while C. viaria and C. fulvastra were sister to the last two clades, which were both in West Africa. Additional resolution of this clade is needed because there are probably many distinct species within it. Original description of C. olivieri was based on an embalmed shrew from Ancient Egypt, which still occurs in the region today. Because of this, G. B. Corbet in 1978 designated a neotype from living specimens near Giza. Twenty subspecies ( olivieri , anchietae, bueae, cara, cinereoaenea, darfurea, giffardi, guineensis, hansruppr, hedenborgiana, kivu, manni, martiensseni, nyansae, occidentalis, odorata, spurelli, sururae, toritensis, and zuleika) have been recognized but are not recognized here due to extreme taxonomic confusion in the clade. Subspecific taxonomy requires reassessment. Monotypic.

Distribution. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal E to W Ethiopia, and S to Botswana, along with a few scattered localities in C & E Ethiopia and a disjunct population along the Nile in E Egypt. View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head-body 110-140 mm, tail 70-100 mm, ear 9-14 mm, hindfoot 18-23 mm; weight 33-65 g. The African Giant White-toothed Shrew is very large and highly variable in size and color. Dorsal pelage ranges greatly from reddish brown to dark brown or blackish, and ventral pelage ranges from buffy brown to dark gray. Tail is 70-80% of head-body length, thick, dark, and covered with many short bristles. Flank glands are well developed and conspicuous, exuding a sweet and musky odor that is especially strong and pungent in the West African individuals. Females have six nipples: two inguinal pairs and one axillary pair or all three pairs equally spaced on stomach in some populations. Skull is large, heavy, and flat, with large rostrum and small cranium; braincase and maxilla are broad; interorbital constriction is long and narrow; and teeth are large and heavy, especially incisors. There are three unicuspids. Chromosomal complement has 2n = 50 and FN = 66 (FNa = 62).

Habitat. Very large variety of habitats, preferring well-vegetated and moist areas, such as lowland and montane evergreen forests, riverine and floodplain grasslands, and swamps, from sea level to elevations of nearly 4000 m (3300 m in the DR Congo and Kenya). The Giant White-toothed Shrew has also been recorded in scrub, burnt and overgrazed grasslands, pine plantations, and montane grasslands. It is a common commensal with humans through its distribution and is common in farmland and plantations and in and around houses and food stores.

Food and Feeding. The African Giant White-toothed Shrew eats a wide variety of invertebrates and possibly carrion. Arthropods make up the largest part of the diet, although diet probably varies largely by region and prey availability. In the DR Congo, major prey items included ants (20% by composition), beetles (16%), millipedes (16%), termites (12%), spiders (12%), and smaller amounts of grasshoppers and insect larvae. Length of prey size ranged from 3 mm to less than 30 mm, with most being less than 10 mm. Food energy consumption of captive individuals weighing 26-37 g was 2-2-6 kJ/g/day.

Breeding. Reproductive timing of the African Giant White-toothed Shrew varies among localities. In the DR Congo, pregnant females have been reported year-round, but breeding declined during the dry season. Pregnant females have been captured in dry and wet season in Zambia, but in Uganda, pregnant females have been reported in July, August, and December. Embryo counts throughout Africa are 1-5/females (mean four embryos in eastern Africa and two in central and western Africa).

Activity patterns. African Giant White-toothed Shrews are very adaptable. They are terrestrial and nearly completely nocturnal, with peaks of activity just before dawn. Molting individuals have been found in March, May, July, and August in Zambia.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. Giant White-toothed Shrews are generally solitary, but individuals will often live in fairly close proximity. They make loud shrieks and churls during aggressive encounters and when startled.

Status and Conservation. Classified as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List. The African Giant White-toothed Shrew is the most widespread species of African shrew and is considered common throughout most of its distribution. In some regions, it is somewhat commensal with humans and regarded as a pest.

Bibliography. Aggundey & Schlitter (1986), Ansell & Dowsett (1988), Brosset (1988), Cassola (2016ba), Churchfield & Hutterer (2013a), Dieterlen & Heim de Balsac (1979), Dubey, Antonin et al. (2007), Dudu et al. (2005), Hutterer & Happold (1983), Hutterer, Van der Straeten & Verheyen (1987), Jacquet, Denys et al. (2015), Jacquet, Hutterer et al. (2013), Maddalena (1990), Meylan & Vogel (1982), Sheppe (1973), Vogel et al. (2013), Yalden et al. (1996).














Crocidura olivieri

Russell A. Mittermeier & Don E. Wilson 2018

Sorex olivieri

Lesson 1827
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