Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shrews


The shrew (true shrews that is) is a small, mouse-like animal. Though they are not rodents and are more closely related to moles. We do not have a huge number of shrew species here in California (only 13). And several of these are pretty limited in range. However around the world shrews are a common small mammal. Though not seen very often. Like their relatives the moles, they have small eyes and poor vision. They make up for this by having good hearing and sense of smell. 

Now shrews are well known for their bad attitudes, and not getting along with each other. They are territorial and only spend time with each other during when mating. They are also known for having big appetites. They have a really fast metabolism and have to eat about 80% (or more) of their body weight every day. Thankfully being small (only weighing several to many grams) they only attack and eat little things. (Mostly insects, though they'll also eat mice and other small animals.)

Though there was a really bad movie called The Killer Shrews (1959) where the mad scientist creates large, wolf-sized shrews. Which of course still had the high metabolism and took to hunting people. So basically it was just like Jurassic Park except that the things attacking were coon hounds dressed up in shrew costumes. Just as an interesting side note, the biggest star in the movie was Ken Curtis... That's right Festus from Gunsmoke. Though you shouldn't look down on him for being in a bad movie. James Arness (Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke) spent his time as a giant carnivorous carrot in The Thing (1951).

OK. Aside over, back to shrews. Now besides being big eaters, shrews are known for having some other interesting skills. First some shrews are the only terrestrial mammals that are known to echolocate. (Bats and various whales and such aren't terrestrial.) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrew) And shrews are unique among mammals since some species are known to be venomous. That is, they have chemicals in their saliva which they use to help them kill prey.

In addition, a tree shrew (I'm pushing things here since a tree shrew isn't a true shrew) is known to have the highest alcohol tolerance (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4419628.ece) of all mammals. But these Pentailed shrews have adapted to having a diet that has a lot of alcohol in it. However, the exact ways their bodies deal with avoiding the bad effects of the alcohol have yet to be identified. Though perhaps that would be a good research direction for alcohol tax money to go. 
 
OK. So what's up with shrews? Well, Tehachapi Community Theatre's 2010-2011 season ends with The Taming of the Shrew. Though this has nothing to do with shrews. It is still filled with odd characters. I've had the privilege of seeing a couple of the rehearsals, and I really enjoyed it. It should be even better when you go to see it between June 10th and 25th. If you don't laugh it's because you're not paying attention.

For anyone who might be offended by someone being called a “shrew”. Note that shrews have the highest brain to body mass ratio of all mammals. Even humans.

1 comment:

  1. I raise my glass and toast the Tree Shrew "bottoms up".

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