Friday, May 16, 2008

Shrew Shaped Non-Squirrel

On a recent hike in Great Smoky National Park, the Mister and I were entertained by this little charmer rooting around in the leaves. He (or she) is not a rodent, rather a shrew, a possibly echolocating member of Order Soricomorpha*. Based on having a long tail to body ratio for a shrew, I'm guessing he or she is a Smoky Shrew (Sorex fumeus), although if a discriminating reader told me that is was definitely a Pygmy Shrew (Sorex hoyi), I certainly wouldn't claim that I can tell if a small woodland creature weighs a third of an ounce rather than a fifth.

While we did see a black bear in the distance, as a result of a "bear jam" in Cades Cove, and encountered Eastern Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, a Groundhog and Eastern Gray Squirrels, the shrew would have to be the mammalian highlight of the trip. Avian highlights included turkeys every day (not unusual but they are such large, attractive birds), Dark Eyed Juncos, Black Throated Blue Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, a Ruby Throated Hummingbird and several birds I think must be wood thrushes.

*Order Insectivora was broken up when it was decided that the hedgehogs, elephant shrews, golden shrews, tree shrews, regular shrews and moles didn't have all that much in common. I taught about Order Soricomorpha in my vert class and was asked was pleased to learn that "sorico" means shrews. Shrews are shrew shaped and hares (in Order Lagamorpha) are hare shaped. Check out the whiskers on our shrew!

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