Long-tailed shrew

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Long-tailed shrew[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Eulipotyphla
Family: Soricidae
Genus: Sorex
Species: S. dispar
Binomial name
Sorex dispar
Batchelder, 1911
Long-tailed Shrew area.png
Long-tailed shrew range

Sorex gaspensis (Anthony & Goodwin, 1924)

The long-tailed shrew or rock shrew (Sorex dispar) is a small North American shrew found in Atlantic Canada and the north-eastern United States.

This shrew is slate grey in colour with a pointed snout, a long tail and lighter underparts. It is found on rocky slopes in mountainous areas along the Atlantic coast from Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to northern Georgia. It eats insects and spiders. Predators include hawks, owls, and snakes.

Physical features[edit]

The Long-Tailed Shrew, or Rock Shrew, is small, slender, black slate-gray in color, with long tails. The average length of the Long-Tailed Shrew, including tail length, is 119.5mm. The head and body length in the species can be 48 to 79mm. The tail length, which averages from 80 to 90 percent of head-body length, ranges from 46 to 67mm. The long-tailed shrew has a hind foot length of 12-15mm, and can have a total body weight of 3.1 to 8.3 grams. The tail is furry with hair that is faintly bicolored. The older in age of the Long-Tailed Shrew, a loss of hair from the tail may be exhibited. The long-tailed shrew has a long slender muzzle with long whiskers that range from 22 to 23mm long.[3] In the summer months the pelage color of the Long-Tailed Shrew is slate gray with the ventral side of the body lighter than the dorsum.[4][5]


The long-tailed shrew has an unusually limited geographic range. The species can be found in the Appalachian Mountains, Nova Scotia and Southeastern New Brunswick, from Canada southward along the mountains to North Carolina, and small ranges of the species in Tennessee. In New York the Long-Tailed Shrew is found in (the Adirondacks and Catskills) and a small area in Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, the long-tailed shrew is only found in Berkshire County.[6]


The Long-Tailed Shrew generally inhabits two types of environments: near mountain streams, or under and among rocks. The species can be found in mountainous, forested areas that could be deciduous or evergreen, and in rocky damp areas where deep crevices are abundant that can be covered by leaf mold and roots. In numerous descriptions of the species habitat it has been observed that rocks are an important component of the habitat, giving the species the nickname "Rock Shrew".[4]


From numerous observations, the Long-tailed Shrew uses its long tail for balance when it is climbing among the rocks or boulders that are always present where it lives. It spends almost all its time underground or in between the numerous crevices found in its environment [2]


The long-tailed shrew has an extremely narrow skull as well as large incisors which gives it the ability to extract insects, spiders, and centipedes from the rocky crevices of its environment.[2]


Reproduction in the Long-tailed shrew occurs in spring and summer, observations of the species have determined the breeding time ranges possibly late April to August. The Long-tailed shrew produces one or two litters from May through August, with two to five young per litter. As a result of the short lifespan of the long-tailed shrew, sexual maturity is reached in less than a year.[2][4]


Overall there are no major threats of the long-tailed shrew throughout its ranges. However, it has been found in some cases that the species has digested pesticides on behalf of the invertebrates they consume. Majority of the long-tailed shrew species resides in public lands, national forests, parks, or remote lands. In order to help conserve the long-tailed shrew species mass disturbance of habitat land is to be prevented, as well as much protection from pesticide contamination as possible.[2]

Similar species[edit]

The northernmost examples of this species were until recently thought to be a separate species, the Gaspé shrew (S. gaspensis) inhabiting the Gaspé Peninsula and Cape Breton Island. However, a 2004 study[7] indicated that the two species were conspecific, with the long-tailed shrew exhibiting a cline towards a smaller size at the northern edge of its range. As the Gaspé shrew, it was first described in A new species of shrew from the Gaspé Peninsula in no. 109, 1924 of American Museum Novitates, a publication of the American Museum of Natural History. When they were regarded as separate species, it was recognized that the Gapsé and long-tailed shrews inhabited similar habitats but were thought to be sympatric species with adjacent ranges.[8] They are now generally accepted to be the same species, with gaspensis a junior synonym and not even a subspecies.


  1. ^ Hutterer, R. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Whittaker, J.C.; Hammerson, G.; Master, L. & Norris, S.J. (2008). "Sorex dispar". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Richmond, Neil; William, Grimm (April 1950). "Ecology and Distribution of the Shrew Sorex Dispar in Pennsylvania". Ecological Society of America. 31 (2): 279–282. doi:10.2307/1932392. 
  4. ^ a b c Gordon, Kirkland (1981). "Sorex Dispar and Sorex Gaspensis.". Mammalian Species (155): 1–4. doi:10.2307/3503803. 
  5. ^ Alden, Peter; Philip, Richard; Burt, William Henry (1987). Peterson First Guide to Mammals of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 366–367. 
  6. ^ "Sorex Dispar (Long-tailed Shrew)". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Rhymer, J. M.; Barbay, J. M. & Givens, H. L. (2004). "Taxonomic relationship between Sorex dispar and S. gaspensis: inferences from mitochondrial DNA sequences". Journal of Mammalogy. 85 (2): 331–337. doi:10.1644/BER-003. 
  8. ^ Munkwitz, Nicole (2002). "Sorex gaspensis". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 25 March 2012.