Shrew-Faced Squirrel (Rhinosciurus laticaudatus)

 

Description.

HB: 195-215; T: 115-140; HF: 44-49; E:19-20
Though a true squirrel of the family Sciuridae, this species superficially resembles the Common Tree shrew Tupaia glis (family : Tupaiidae) in appearance. In both species the snout is long and pointed, but the gape of the Shrew-faced Ground Squirrel is much shorter in comparison to the Common Tree shrew.
In addition, the tail of the Shrew-faced Ground Squirrel is characteristically short and bushy, unlike the Common Tree shrew's which is nearly twice as long.
The fur of the Shrew-Faced Ground Squirrel is dark brown above, and pale buff to white below. The upper incisors are much reduced in comparison to other squirrel species, and the tongue is very long : these are adaptations to its insectivorous diet which comprises ants, termites, earthworms and beetles. The tail is speckled with grey and is often carried fluffed out. The shrew-faced squirrel, Rhinosciurus laticaudatus (Müller), is a medium-sized and monotypic squirrel with a head-body length of 19–23 cm and a tail length of 11–17 cm (Payne & Francis, 1985; Francis, 2008). Rhinosciurus laticaudatus has uniform dark brown upperparts and buff or white underparts (Lekagul & McNeely, 1988). The short and bushy tail is often held upwards when the squirrel is active. While the shrew-faced squirrel is similar in size to the plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus), the former possesses a pointed snout that is unique. Rhinosciurus superficially resembles tree shrews (order Scandentia), but the latter have relatively more pointed snouts . In comparison, Rhinosciurus laticaudatus is distinguished by its shorter gape, and shorter and bushier tail. It differs from the diurnal squirrels in Singapore in that it is primarily terrestrial in habit, and its diet comprises mainly insects (Lekagul & McNeely, 1998).

Distribution

The species occurs in Southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and parts of Borneo. In Singapore it is considered rare. Rhinosciurus laticaudatus occurs in the tropical humid lowland forests of Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo, and small adjacent islands (Duckworth et al., 2008)

Population

This species has been rarely encountered.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology:

The Shrew-faced Ground Squirrel is a forest floor inhabitant of undisturbed primary and mature secondary forests : it is secretive in habits and rarely seen. It is medium-sized, feeds primarily on forest floor insects, and probably nests in hollow logs. They eat ants, termites beetles, earthworms and fruit. The teeth of old individuals are worn down probability because of the grit which is taken in from ants and termites. This is a diurnal and terrestrial species (Saiful and Nordin 2004), occurring in lowland primary rainforest, logged forests, and 40 year old regrowth. A young baby of a shrew faced squirrel is called a 'pup, kit or kitten'. The females are called 'doe' and males 'buck'. A shrew faced squirrel group is called a 'dray or scurry'. The female as 2 pairs of mammae. They nest in hollow gaps logs and have a litter of 1 or 2 offspring.  According to Medway(1969)the voice is a typical squirrel like, churring chatter. It differs from the diurnal squirrels in Singapore in that it is primarily terrestrial in habit, and its diet comprises mainly insects (Lekagul & McNeely, 1998).

Status

The species is categorised as ‗Near Threatened‘ in the IUCN Red List due to the high forest conversion rates throughout its range, and it ‗almost qualifies as threatened under criterion A2c‘ (Duckworth et al., 2008). Perhaps owing to the extremely low encounter rate and poor trap success for Rhinosciurus laticaudatus (Payne & Francis, 1985; Charles & Ang, 2010), very little is known about the shrew-faced squirrel. When performing a search in scientific databases, the term ‗Rhinosciurus laticaudatus‘ appeared predominantly in articles on biodiversity surveys (e.g., Saiful & Nordin, 2004).

Systems: Terrestrial

Major Threat(s):

It is threatened by habitat loss due to logging and agricultural conversion.

Conservation Actions:

It occurs in several protected areas.

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