Monday, January 13, 2014


Hispaniolan Solenodon

As you all know by now, I really like bringing you information about unusual animals, many of which are endangered. Some of them you are quite familiar with, others are real eye openers. I believe I found another really weird animal for you to consider and ponder. It’s called a Solenodon.

Living up to the sound of its name, the Solenodon is an ancient creature. This creature, which many would dismiss, as a big rat, actually waddled along on the ground while dinosaurs soared above it. The Solenodon separated itself from other mammals about 76 million years ago. Let’s give this little guy credit. He survived cataclysms, and destruction and can still be seen in the forests of Hispaniola and Cuba.

If that isn’t interesting enough, I’ve got another really strange tidbit for you. The name Solenodon comes to us from the Greek, meaning ‘grooved tooth.’ It’s not just any tooth, mind you. It’s a tooth that can inject venom, just like a snake. This is the only venomous mammal on the planet, and he’s been on the planet for a long, long time. As a matter of fact, fossil evidence suggests that this little critter roamed the earth approximately 30 million years ago in North America, and it has remained essentially unchanged since then. So at one time, his habitat was quite large. Now, the Solenodon is found only in the Caribbean, specifically Cuba and the island of Hispaniola. 

So I guess you want to know how venomous this little guy is, right? Well, he’s not so bad at all. The Solenodon uses venom to subdue its prey, which consists mainly of insects, arachnids, and grubs. He has a ball-and-socket joint at the end of his nose. This joint is another feature that makes the Solenodon unique in the animal kingdom. The bone at the end of his nose helps him to poke around on the ground searching for those insects, arachnids, and grubs. He is considered an omnivore (an animal that eats anything), because it will also eat roots, fruits and leaves. Another interesting fact, the bony nose is only found on the Cuban Solenodon and not the Hispaniola species. 

The Solenodon is a nocturnal (searches for dinner at night) feeder, which uses echolocation. We’ve talked about echolocation (location by sound) before. At night, the Solenodon will use clicking and whistling sounds to help him locate his dinner; that's echolocation. 

Although many people think he looks like a big rat, the Solenodon is actually related to shrews and moles. However, he is so distinctive that he has created his own mammal family: Solenodontidae. The Solenodon is about a foot long, with a long tail, which adds another 10 inches to its length. He has a very well developed sense of smell and hearing, but has very poor eyesight.

The Dominican Republic has created an extensive network of areas to help protect this endangered mammal. However, the threat of invasive species, deforestation, development and encroachment by humans is still very real. 

I could not find a video that I liked enough to load here for you, but I thought you would appreciate this picture. It shows you how ancient looking and unusual this animal is. It so important for us to insure that this creature survives, and their survival is totally up to us.  The Solenodon cannot do it by himself. 

If you want to learn more about the Solenodon, you can visit the following sites: 

My thanks to Mongabay and Arkive for their pictures and information.

Teachers, please share my blog in your classrooms. Share it with your friends and family, and be sure to return again for a look at another wonderful creature.


J.E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, a Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages

Available on Amazon:

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