VIDEO: Venomous "Giant Shrew" Caught on Film

National Geographic News
January 12, 2009
[Editor's note: the original version of this article called this video "first-ever footage." This is incorrect, as the solenodon had been filmed before.]

Don't let the placid face and waddling gait fool you—this creature's bite packs a venomous punch.

A Hispaniolan solenodon gets a checkup and shows off for visitors in rare footage (above) released this week by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, based in the U.K.

The conservation group caught the lone animal during a recent population survey in the Dominican Republic. After taking a DNA sample and the video footage, the team released the captured solenodon back into the wild.

The shrew-like animal can deliver venom through specialized teeth. It is one of the few living mammals that use poison, joined only by two true shrew species and the duck-billed platypus.

The solenodon is thought to be the last in a line of early mammals that arose near the end of the dinosaurs' reign, about 65 million years ago.

The species, listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, has become increasingly rare across its range in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic (see map).

IUCN notes on its Web site that the Hispaniolan solenodon population is decreasing due to habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of predators such as mongooses, dogs, and cats to the Caribbean.

—Video courtesy A. Hall & G. Guida/Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

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