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Solenodons

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Solenodontidae
Missing image
Solen5.jpg
Image:Solen5.jpg


Hispaniolan Solenodon, S. paradoxus
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Insectivora
Family:Solenodontidae
Genera

Atopogale
Solenodon

Species

Atopogale cubana
Solenodon paradoxus
Solenodon marcanoi (extinct)

The family Solenodontidae are nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals. Only two genera, Atopogale and Solenodon are known, both of which include extant species.

Often compared to shrews, solenodons resemble rats with extremely elongated cartilaginous snouts, long, naked, scaly tails, small eyes, and coarse, dark brown to black hair. Between 70-80 centimeters (28-32 inches) long from nose to tail, solenodons are known to become very easily agitated and may squeal or bite with little or no provocation.

The two living solenodon species are the Cuban Solenodon (Atopogale cubana) of Cuba and the Haitian or Hispaniolan Solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) of Hispaniola (island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti). Both became endangered species due to predation by the mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), which was introduced in colonial times to hunt snakes and rats, as well as by feral cats and dogs. The Haitian solenodon is practically extinct, with sightings of specimens or their markings occurring rather infrequently. The Cuban Solenodon was thought to have been extinct until a live specimen was found in 2003. The Marcano's Solenodon (Solenodon marcanoi) has gone extinct in the Holocene.

Solenodons have a few intriguing traits, two of them being the position of the teats (2) on female, almost on the buttocks of the animal, and poison saliva, that flows from modified salivary glands in the mandible through grooves on the second lower incisors (Solenodon derives from the Greek "grooved tooth"), which makes the Solenodon one of only a handful of mammals that are venomous.

The Solenodon genus is interesting to phylogenetics researchers due to its retention of primitive mammal characteristics; their species resemble very closely those that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs.


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