Solenodon

SolenodonSolenodon — Solenodons are nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals belonging to the family Solenodontidae. Only one genus, Solenodon, is known, although a few other genera were erected at one time and are now regarded as junior synonyms. The Solenodontidae family is interesting to phylogenetics researchers due to its retention of primitive mammal characteristics; their species resemble very closely those that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

The two living solenodon species are the Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus), and the Haitian or Hispaniolan Solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). The group was once much more widespread throughout North America, including genera such as Apternodus from the Oligocene.

Often compared to shrews, solenodons resemble very large shrews, with extremely elongated cartilaginous snouts, long, naked, scaly tails, small eyes, and coarse, dark brown to black hair. The snout is flexible, and in the Hispaniola Solenodon, actually has a ball-and-socket joint at the base to increase its mobility. This allows the animal to investigate narrow crevices where potential prey may be hiding. Between 28-32 centimeters (11-13 inches) long from nose to rump, and weighing between 700–1,000g (25–35oz), solenodons are known to become very easily agitated and may squeal or bite with little or no provocation.

Both species became endangered species due to predation by the Small Asian Mongoose (specifically subspecies Herpestes javanicus auropunctatus), which was introduced in colonial times to hunt snakes and rats, as well as by feral cats and dogs. The Hispaniolan Solenodon is practically extinct, with sightings of specimens or their spoor occurring rather infrequently. The Cuban Solenodon was thought to have been extinct until a live specimen was found in 2003. The Marcano’s Solenodon (Solenodon marcanoi) went extinct in the Holocene.

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