Variation in the myosoricine hand skeleton and its implications for locomotory behavior (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)

Journal of Mammalogy
By:  and 



Substrate use and locomotory behavior of mammals are typically reflected in external characteristics of the forefeet, such as the relative proportions of the digits and claws. Although skeletal anatomy of the forefeet can be more informative than external characters, skeletons remain rare in systematic collections. This is particularly true for the Myosoricinae (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae), a small clade of African shrews that includes both ambulatory forest shrews (Myosorex) and semifossorial mole shrews (Surdisorex). Most species in this subfamily have restricted distributions, and their behavior and ecology are mostly unstudied. To better understand the potential range of locomotory behavior among myosoricines, we used digital x-rays to image and facilitate measuring the forefoot skeletons of 9 species. As a gauge of potential variation, we compared them with the ambulatory talpid Uropsilus (Talpidae) and the semifossorial talpid Neurotrichus. The hand morphologies of myosoricines show a graded range of potential substrate use between ambulatory and semifossorial. Some of these shrews exhibit adaptations for increased burrowing efficiency that are similar to those seen in talpids and other mammals, such as longer, broader distal phalanges and claws and shorter, wider metacarpals and proximal and middle phalanges. They also, however, have characteristics that are distinct from talpids, such as maintenance of forefoot asymmetry and an increased emphasis of ray III.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variation in the myosoricine hand skeleton and its implications for locomotory behavior (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)
Series title Journal of Mammalogy
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyu017
Volume 96
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher American Society of Mammalogists
Publisher location Provo, UT
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 13 p.
First page 159
Last page 171
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N