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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone

Erinaceidae Solenodontidae Soricidae Talpidae Tenrecidae

Family: Solenodontidae (solenodons)

The single surviving genus of this family, Solenodon, contains two species. Their current range is restricted to Haiti and Cuba. In recent times they were considerably more widespread, but their habitat is shrinking and the current populations are threatened. Solenodons resemble large, stout, well-built shrews, weighing up to 1kg. They have very pronounced, long cartilaginous snouts, extending well beyond the length of the jaw. The snout of the Haitian species is very mobile, due to its attachment to the skull via a ball-and-socket joint. The snout is used to investigate cracks and crevices, and is even used occasionally to pin prey to the ground when caught. The dental formula of the two extant species is: i3/3, c1/1, pm3/3, m3/3 = 40. The anterior upper incisor is large. Solenodons produce toxic saliva, which is carried through a groove in the second lower incisor into the flesh of their victims. The molars are zalambdodont.

Before Europeans arrived on Haiti and Cuba, bringing with them alien predators (typically ferrets, feral cats, and dogs), the solenodons were among the dominant carnivores. They have little defence against such competition and subsequently their numbers have declined dramatically. Invertebrates constitute a high proportion of their diet, including insects, millipedes, earthworms and termites. They are also known to supplement their diet with plant material. Solenodons are nocturnal. They walk with an awkward gait, but are agile and can climb and run quickly.