The Order Lipotyphla includes hedgehogs, moles and shrews. (Excluding golden moles, elephant-shrews and tree-shrews which all belong to different Orders.) Lipotyphla are thought to form a polyphletic clade with the insectivores of the Orders Afrosoricida.
The hedgehogs (erinaceomorphs) are easily identified by their thick covering of spines. They get their name 'hog' from pig-like snuffling noises that they make whilst scavenging for food. There are a variety of species that live in urban areas, wooded areas through to desert environments, but all look morphologically very similar. Their diet mainly consists of insects though the Indian hedgehog for example also preys on scorpions, birds' eggs and carrion. The litter size varies between species, though is generally between 2 and 4, after a gestation period of just over a month.
West European hedgehog
Length: 22-27 cm
Weight: 0.9-1 kg
Social unit: Individual
The moles are morphologically very similar to the golden moles of the Afrosoricida. They are virtually blind and feed on worms, insects and other invertebrates. Most moles spend live nearly their whole lives underground, in a series of tunnels that radiate from a single chamber. However some species, such as the star-nosed mole are exceptionally good swimmers and live near streams and rivers where it can prey upon leeches, snails, small fish and other aquatic prey as well as the normal mole diet of soil dwelling creatures. Most mole species are solitary mammals that only tolerate others of their kind when it comes to breeding. After mating the female mole will dig a large chamber. After a gestation period of 4 weeks, the mole will give birth in the nest to 3-4 offspring. Burrows and tunnels are built using extremely powerful front limbs. Their paws are shaped like spades with flat claws on each toe. The mole will anchor itself with its back feet and then push the soil in front up towards the surface creating a tunnel behind it and leaving the excess soil on the surface as a mole hill.
Length: 18-19 cm
Weight: 45 g
Social unit: Variable
Region: East Canada and North-East USA
Status: Locally common
Shrews (soricomorphs) are one of the smallest mammals. They are diverse in species and occupy a number of habitats from forests and grasslands through mountains to aquatic environments. They are all insectivorous though aquatic species also feed on frogs and small fish. The number of offspring varies greatly species specifically, but is most commonly just above or below 4-5 after a gestation period of between 20 and 30 days, again according to species. Shrews have longer tails and a more slender snout than both moles and hedgehogs and are relatively aggressive to both foreign creatures and other members of their own species, only forming pairs in the breeding season.
Length: 5-7 cm
Weight: 7-13 g
Social unit: Individual
Region: Central Asia
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Author: Emma-Louise Nicholls
Last updated: 20th November 2005
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