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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone




Family Tenrecidae: 3 subfamilies with 23 - 34 species in 10 genera.

Afrosoricidans are confined largely to Madagascar with a few species in West and Central Africa. Tenrecs and otter shrews exhibit many ancestral characters of placental mammals: a variable, low body temperature; a common opening for the anal and urogenital tracts (the cloaca); undescended testes in the male.

These mammals resemble hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, mice or otters. Members of the subfamily Tenrecinae are hedgehog-like with spines; members of the subfamily Oryzoryctinae mostly shrew-like or mole-like; members of the subfamily Potamogalinae otter-like. Afrosoricidans are nocturnal and omnivorous. Their dental formulae vary markedly between species, reflecting the diversity of the family: I2-3/2-3; C1/1; PM2-3/2-3; M2-4/2-3 = 32 - 40.

As this order has been placed in the Clade Afrotheria, the tenrecs have been moved from the case, in which shrews and moles are displayed, to be with other Afrotherians: the aardvark, elephants, hyraces and dugong.


Subfamily Tenrecinae, Centetes ecaudatus, the tail-less tenrec is one of the largest tenrecs. Its coat is a mixture of bristles, hairs and flexible spines. The spines, which are barbed and detachable in some species, are controlled by a special, well-developed muscle. The adult’s spines are on its neck, the young’s spines in lines along the back. Females produce 12 – 16 young. The tail-less tenrec feeds on grubs and worms, which it roots up with its long flexible snout. It is a nocturnal and fossorial species, living in mountains and hibernating in deep burrows in the cool season.


Another member of the Order Afrosoricida., the golden mole (Family Chrysochloridae), can be viewed in the full description of the mammals, that were once grouped together in the Order Insectivora.

The web pages entitled ‘the Tree of Life’ explains how molecular analyses led to the members of the Order Insectivora being split between two separate orders - the Eulipotyphla and the Afrosoricida.