Order : Scandentia
Tree Shrews - The Remarkable Rodent from Asia
A tree shrew is a remarkable animal, native to the tropical forests and jungles of Southeast Asia. These tiny animals have uncommonly good senses of smell and sight while at the same time have a poorly developed dental system, complete with unformed teeth. Found mostly in India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Phillipines, there are only nineteen tree shrew species, ten of which live only on the island of Borneo. With no clear fossil record, little is known about their origins, though it is hypothesized they are descendants of prehistoric rodents. Tree shrews are part of the order Scandentia, which includes 20 species and 5 genera within it. This order is unique in that all of its members resemble modern day squirrels, and it is made up entirely of varieties of tree shrews.
Tree shrews are not actually shrews at all, and all species in the order are necessarily aboreal, which means that they live in trees. Choosing to spend most of their time on branches or amid shrubbery, tree shrews are easily camouflaged from predators by their dirt-like red and brown coats. They also choose to live in small groups which provides further protection against predators, and they mark their territories with sweat or urine. These animals have often proved to be very territorial, and even fight each other when they feel threatened. Their vision and hearing as well as their sense of smell is excellent, which is usually the case for tree-dwelling animals, and although the Pen-tailed tree shrew is nocturnal, all the species hunt during the day and rest at night.
One of the largest threats to tree shrews is that of habitat destruction. Due to the deforestation and continued tree farming in their natural habitats, many are faced with nowhere to live and carry out their daily activities. Natural predators include all large, carnivorous mammals as well as viruses, of which tree shrews are particularly susceptible. Mammals that feed on tree shrews include large cats such as marbled cats, leopard cats, and clouded leopards. The diet of the common tree shrew includes large amounts of insects and fruit, but also sometimes includes other animal food such as earthworms, other small mammals, and lizards and even some types of plant matter. They drink large quantities of water and are often found bathing themselves in rivers or streams.
Similar to a squirrel in appearance, common tree shrews, the only true member of the order Scandentia, have a higher brain/body ratio than that of humans. Their typical head and body length is approximated 19.5 centimeters on average. Some maintain that this order is related to that of primates.
This remarkable order includes some of the most difficult to classify mammals of the planet: the tree shrews. Similar to other rodents their size, tree shrews are remarkable in so many ways, including their heightened senses, varied diet, and tree-dwelling lifestyle!
Animals in the order Scandentia
|Madras tree shrew|
|Pen-tailed tree shrew|
|Common tree shrew|