Ornate shrew

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Ornate shrew
Sorex ornatus relictus.jpg
Sorex ornatus relictus
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Soricidae
Genus: Sorex
Species: S. ornatus
Binomial name
Sorex ornatus
Merriam, 1895
Map of Sorex ornatus distribution.svg
Ornate shrew range

The ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus), is a species of mammal in the family Soricidae (shrews).[2] It is endemic to western North America, ranging from Northern California in the United States to Baja California in Mexico.[1] Eight subspecies are known, including the extinct tule shrew (S. o. juncensis), known only from four specimens collected in 1905, and the Suisun ornate shrew (S. o. sinuosus), a species of conservation concern in California.


Museum specimen

Ornate shrews are small shrews. They weigh on average 5.12 g (0.181 oz). The total length of the animal averages 99.4 mm (3.91 in) with a hindfoot measuring 12.1 mm (0.48 in). The tail is relatively short, measuring 37.5 mm (1.48 in).[3] The shrew molts, with a change in fur coloring at different times of year. The coat is overall drab, brown on the back, trending towards a gray or buff on the underside. In winter, the backside coloring is darker brown, while the underside tends towards a grayish-white. Subspecies towards the south tend to be larger in size, and with darker markings, than those in the north.[4]

The skull measures on average 16.3 mm (0.64 in) in length. The palate averages 6.82 mm (0.269 in) in length and the distance between the eye-sockets averages 3.31 mm (0.130 in). The cranium is around 4.59 mm (0.181 in) long and 7.96 mm (0.313 in) wide.[5] The overall shape of the skull is rather flat and broad, with a depression between the eye-sockets.[4]

The tail of the shrew is bicolored, gradually ranging from brown above to more gray underneath.[4]



ITIS lists the following subspecies:[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The ornate shrew is found along portions of the west coast of North America and a few near shore islands. The northern extent is around 39 degrees latitude in California. The range extends south into the Baja Peninsula. There is a stretch of territory through Baja where the shrew is not found, then it is found again near the southern tip. Santa Catalina Island hosts a population of a subspecies of ornate shrew (S. o. willetti). There are reports of ornate shrews on the islands of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa as well.[4]

Ornate shrews reside among coastal marshes and palustrine environments. Certain subspecies may be found only within specific habitats. The shrews have been found at altitudes as high as 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) in the San Jacinto Mountains.[4] Ornate shrews were once common and widespread throughout their geographic range. However, populations in sensitive ecological regions have dwindled sharply. These areas include coastal wetlands, salt marshes, and freshwater swamps. Ornate shrews are also less common or have been eliminated from areas of intensive agriculture in central California.[1]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

The breeding period of the ornate shrew starts in late February and ends in late September or October.[7] Shrews of similar size have a gestation period around 21 days, but no definitive information on the ornate shrew is available.[7]

Human interactions[edit]

I found one of these little and I live on the eastern plain, it was spring and i saw him in a window well trying to get out due to the coming rain. i attempted to try and push him into a cup but he was fairly smart and saw around that trap. when i tried to get him by hand well yea they are very fast. i came back later in the night to attempt one more time, it was far easy he was near a toad not big enough to eat him but look like they had a mutual benefit as they stayed close i'm assume the shrew provided body heat and the toad help keep it in and protect him from other toads. after i got him in a enclosure i study him for a few days. But i've come to notice they lack the ability to jump, i assume since most mice that can jump are related to the kangarue but there closer to the mole thus also make there vision horrible but there smell,hearing and movement round them is what they use get information about the environment. I know the shrew is definitely not something that should be made into a pet so if you have one i recommend letting it into the wild the never stop attempting escape and being in captivity I think put stress on them as i feed the one I had quite often but i notice hair loss in the coat. This could be due to other factors like not right amount of vitamins or the Cause of the coat Changing colors maybe even environment I put him in a 12 gallon tank thought that would be good but maybe its a more social animal and needs Friends, what i also considered was it was there natural time of breeding so that might have made him look for ways out even after knowing there was no way out . they may be a better pet if born into captivity, some else will have to finish the study I would have if i had gotten a breeding pair but that's next to impossible unless they trap themselves.

Conservation status[edit]

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the conservation status of the ornate shrew as "Least Concern". The rationale cited is the broad geographic range of distribution and a population stable enough that listing the animal as threatened would not be appropriate. However, they note that geographcally restricted groups on the Baja Peninsula may be vulnerable due to habitat loss from human activity and other environmental stresses. The tule shrew, a subspecies of the ornate shrew, is recently extinct. The Government of Mexico has enacted special legal protections for ornate shrews. There are protected areas in both Mexico and the United States where ornate shrews are found.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Owen, James G.; Hoffmann, Robert S. (15 December 1983). "Sorex ornatus" (PDF). Mammalian Species (212): 1–5. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 


  1. ^ a b c d Ticul Alvarez, S., Matson, J., Castro-Arellano, I., Woodman, N., de Grammont, P.C. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Sorex ornatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). "Order Soricomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ Owen & Hoffmann 1983, p. 1.
  4. ^ a b c d e Owen & Hoffmann 1983, p. 2.
  5. ^ Owen & Hoffmann 1983, pp. 1–2.
  6. ^ "Sorex ornatus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Owen & Hoffmann 1983, p. 3.