Friday, September 12, 2008

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY - TREESHREWS


This is a photo of Tupaia glis (Photo Credit: Stavenn). This species is not found in Borneo. Mammalogist already found out that the one that occur in Borneo is distinct from the one that occur in mainland (Peninsular Malaysia). We have Tupaia longipes in Borneo.

I know there are a lot of people get confused when they look at the tree shrews. Are they squirrel? Are they shrews? Are they primate? There are explanation about the treeshrews. I found article called " A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY" from Brookfield Zoo websites that discuss about this topic.

They're not squirrels
Tree shrews are small mammals that live part of their lives in trees in the tropical forests of southeast Asia. Their legs are short, with padded feet and long claws for gripping branches. They have a long, pointy snout, and a great sense of smell. Tree shrews have small, elongated bodies and big bushy tails---just like squirrels. With their similarities, you might think that trees shrews and squirrels are closely related, but they aren't.

They aren’t really shrews, either
Tree shrews got their name from English sailors exploring southeast Asia, way back in 1780. To the sailors, these long-nosed creatures reminded them of shrews back home. Shrews are tiny, insect eating mammals (called "insectivores") with pointy snouts. The animals we now call tree shrews looked like an arboreal (or "tree-living") version of the familiar creatures of the English countryside. But sailors of the eighteenth century were wrong, as the resemblance to shrews proved to be superficial.

And no, they aren't primates
In the 1920s, a scientist proposed that tree shrews were actually related to primates, an early offshoot of the primate evolutionary tree. The scientist based his findings on comparative studies of primate and shrew skulls, muscles, reproduction systems, and other traits. Based on the similarities he found, the "tree shrews-as-primitive-primate" hypothesis was soon accepted. More recent studies have shown that a more likely explanation is that primates and shrews shared a common ancestor so far back in time that to call them close relatives was misleading. The similarities the scientist found between primates and tree shrews were probably due to both creatures adapting to life in the trees.

Well, what are they then?
So, they’re not squirrels, they’re not shrews, and they’re not primates. What are they? Tree shrews are apparently a distinct group, not particularly related to shrews or primates. In fact, the 18 different species of tree shrews are the only members of their own mammalian family, Scandentia.

Tree shrews on the ground?
Not all tree shrews are completely arboreal. Some, like the large tree shrew, spend more time on the ground sniffing and feeling for food than climbing trees. They root through the leaf litter, using their sensitive noses to find insects and seeds.

Just the facts

Body length: 8.4 inches

Tail length: 6.5 inches

Weight: 7.8 ounces

Habitat: Tropical rain forest and secondary growth forests

Distribution: Eastern Asia from India to the Philippines

Wild diet: Insects, fruits, seeds, leaves, and occasionally small mammals and lizards

BZ diet: Fruit, canned primate diet, cat food, and insects
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