Extant Euarchontoglires


Order: Scandentia
Family: Tupaiidae
Species: 19

Despite their name, tree shrews actually spend a lot of time on the ground foraging for food with their long snouts. They are not actually shrews at all, but are far more closely related to primates as they have a large braincase and in males, an external scrotum. Their large eyes, ears and snout give them exceptional senses of vision, hearing and smell. They prey on insects, worms, mice, small birds, small lizards and fruit. Unlike true shrews, they have no whiskers. Their long bushy tails (except for the Pen-tailed tree shrew; Ptilocercus lowi) provide excellent balance as they scurry around in the trees, skilfully climbing around on splayed toes with sharp claws. They mark their scent by dragging their belly along branch stems, depositing scent from abdominal glands. The scent if thought to be detectable by other tree shrews of the same species, and acts as a warning to potential rivals. All 19 extant species inhabit the tropical forests of South-East Asia.


Example species:

Lesser tree shrew
Tupaia minor

Length: 11.5-13.5 cm
Weight: 30-70 g
Social unit: Individual
Region: South Asia
Status: Lower risk



Author: Emma-Louise Nicholls
Last updated: 20th November 2005
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Websites produced by students on the MSc Palaeobiology programme in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol for academic year 2005-6