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Keywords:

  • Scutisorex;
  • armored shrew;
  • vertebrae;
  • diet;
  • ecology;
  • Africa

Abstract

The diet of Scutisorex somereni (Soricomorpha: Soricidae) from forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo was investigated to elucidate its feeding ecology in the context of its unique spinal modifications. It ate a wide range of small and large invertebrates, including representatives of Coleoptera, Formicidae, Lepidoptera and Diptera larvae, Chilopoda, Diplopoda and Araneae, but the principal prey was Oligochaeta. All diet samples contained Oligochaeta and these contributed 38–45% of prey volume. While 64% of prey occurrences were <10 mm in length, 56% of prey volume comprised invertebrates >26 mm, mostly large Oligochaeta (some of >50 mm). Soil-dwelling prey comprised 46% by composition (59% by volume) of the diet. Besides its peculiar skeletal modifications, it has an exceptionally long intestine relative to its body size. It was concluded that S. somereni is primarily an earthworm-eating shrew and partially subterranean rather than truly fossorial in foraging mode. Its diet and foraging mode cannot explain the unique vertebral modifications of this zoological curiosity.