This week’s Mammal Monday is a re-post from guest blogger, Noah Thompson. Noah wrote this post when he was an 8th grader. His post this week was part of a year-long writing project assigned by his English teachers (way to go, teachers!)
The Solenodon is a rodent which populates the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola in the Caribbean. Solenodon paradoxus is the species found in Hispaniola. It is believed that Solenodons have been around for 75 million years, meaning they were around at the time of the dinosaurs! Though Solenodons have survived for this huge amount of time, they are unfortunately in danger of becoming extinct due to human activity.
It is unfortunate that the Solenodon is slowly becoming extinct for two reasons. First, the Solenodon kills and eats many unwanted pests that annoy humans. Second, they are one of the weirdest animals in the world. The Solenodon gets its name from the grooves in its teeth through which it injects its venom into victims. It is the only mammal which can inject venom. Even though these animals are aggressive killers (it is recorded that in captivity one literally shredded a live chicken before eating it), they are extremely clumsy. When frightened, the Solenodon will either put its head toward the ground and stay still, or it will run away and, in many cases, trip on its feet causing it to roll. This inability to get away from threats is one reason the Solenodon is so close to being extinct.
The Solenodon originally thrived on its two home islands because it had very few predators. When the Europeans colonized the islands, however, they brought with them dogs, cats, and, later on, mongooses. These three predators can easily kill a Solenodon, and they are believed to be the main cause of the creature’s endangered status. Another problem is the deforestation of the islands on which it lives. The forests provided a habitat for the Solenodon’s food: insects, lizards, and plants.
The Solenodon is part of the Last Survivors Project. This project was created to raise awareness about Caribbean land dwelling rodents and preserve them. The project’s work on Solenodons is mainly focused on learning more about the animals. The project managers believe that the more they know about the animals, the better they will be able to help them.
Photo from: benvironment.org.uk
Morelle, Rebecca. "Solenodon Hunt: Close Encounter with a Bizarre Beast." BBC News. BBC, 06 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 June 2013.
"Solenodon." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013
Theusch, M. 2002. "Solenodon cubanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 11, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Solenodon_cubanus/