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  • Suncus murinus (Photo: Paul Heideman)
  • Japanese domesticated Suncus murinus (Onj line) (Photo: Kei Tsuji)
  • Japanese domesticated Suncus murinus (Onj line) (Photo: Kei Tsuji)
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Common name
brown musk shrew (English), Moschusspitzmaus (German), Ceylon highland shrew (English, Sri Lanka), Indian musk shrew (English), Ryukyu musk shrew (English, Japan), Asian musk shrew (English), Asian house shrew (English), rat musquee (Mauritian Creole), Kandyan shrew (English, Sri Lanka), kirukanjia (Swahili), Indian grey musk-rat (English, Sri Lanka), house shrew (English), common Indian musk-shrew (English, Sri Lanka), grey musk shrew (English, India), money shrew (English, China), white-tailed shrew (English, Bangladesh)
Synonym
Suncus albicauda
Suncus albinus
Suncus andersoni
Suncus auriculata
Suncus beddomei
Suncus blanfordii
Suncus blythii
Suncus caerulaeus
Suncus caerulescens
Suncus caeruleus
Suncus celebensis
Suncus ceylanica
Suncus crassicaudus
Suncus duvernoyi
Suncus edwardsiana
Suncus fulvocinerea
Suncus fuscipes
Suncus geoffroyi
Suncus giganteus
Suncus griffithii
Suncus heterodon
Suncus indicus
Suncus kandianus
Suncus kroonii
Suncus Kuekenthali
Suncus leucera
Suncus luzoniensis
Suncus malabaricus
Suncus mauritiana
Suncus media
Suncus melanodon
Suncus microtis
Suncus mulleri
Suncus muschata
Suncus myosurus
Suncus nemorivagus
Suncus nitidofulva
Suncus occultidens
Suncus palawanensis
Suncus pealana
Suncus pilorides
Suncus riukiuana
Suncus rubicunda
Suncus sacer
Suncus saturatior
Suncus semmelincki
Suncus semmeliki
Suncus serpentarius
Suncus sindensis
Suncus soccatus
Suncus sonneratii
Suncus swinhoei
Suncus temminckii
Suncus tytleri
Suncus unicolor
Suncus viridescens
Suncus waldemarii
Similar species
Summary
Suncus murinus (the Indian musk shrew) is a commensal and adaptable mammal. It is a rapid coloniser and threatens many plant and animal species through predation and competition. Through human agency it has a large and expanding range and, to date, very little work has been done on how to effectively manage the species.
Species Description
A highly variable species, the Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) varies widely in colour, size and weight. It is small, secretive and mouse-like with a long pointed nose. The fur is short and velvety, ranging in colour from light grey-brown to black and recorded adult weights vary between 23.5g to 82.0g in females and 33.2g to 147.3g in males (Ruedi et al., 1996). The head-to-body length of S. murinus is up to 15cm, the tail length up to 8cm (Baker, 2005). A study comparing shrew populations from Guam and Madagascar showed some significant differences in appearance, body weight and length, with female shrews from Madagascar being heavier than females from Guam (Hasler et al. 1977). Chang et al. (1999a,b) found that the average weight of adult females in Taiwan was 37.4g, and the average weight of juvenile females was 23.2g, while the average weight of adult males was 58.6g, and the average weight of juvenile males was 32.9g. Musk shrews have very small eyes, thick, relatively hairless tails and make frequent shrill high pitched squeaks. The musk glands on its flanks give it a distinctive smell (BBC, 2006).
Olsen (1984) outlines a method of distinguishing the fecal pellets of shrews from those of other commensal rodents.
Lifecycle Stages
Gestation period of around 30 days, weaned at 15-20 days (Hasler et al., 1977; Gill & Rissman, 1997). Lifespan in captivity ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 or 3 years (Dryden, 1969; E. Rissman, pers. comm.), with one individual living 3.2 years (AnAge, undated).
Uses
The Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) may have been deliberately introduced to some areas in an attempt to keep away rats and snakes (Prater, 1947; Murray, 1884; in Taber et al., 1967). S. murinus has been successfully domesticated for use as a laboratory animal in the USA and Japan (Tsuji et al., 1999).
Habitat Description
The Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) is a robust and highly adaptable species. It has a lower metabolic rate than European shrews and is therefore less susceptible to environmental stress. It is found on many islands, in forests or in agricultural land. It is particularly associated with human activity, and this has undoubtedly assisted its geographic spread. The species poses a growing threat as humans continue to facilitate its range expansion. Yang and Zhuge (1989) found that the home range size averaged 1227m2 for male shrews, and 241m2 for females. In Guam, S. murinus nests can be found in open, grassy areas, and beneath or beside large rocks, logs, brush piles and similar materials (Peterson, 1956).
Reproduction
The Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) has no behavioural oestrus cycle and follicular development and ovulation are both induced by mating (Gill & Rissman, 1997). The family Soricidae have retained a number of primitive features including a cloaca and internal male testes (Churchfield, 1990), which makes distinguishing the sexes difficult in some cases.
Average litter size varies geographically with recorded values ranging from 2.1 to 4.7 correlated with female body weight, and number of offspring per litter varies between 1 and 8 (Hasler et al., 1977; Nowak et al., 1983). Females reach sexual maturity at around 35 days (Hasler et al., 1977; Gill & Rissman, 1997). Breeding takes place throughout the year, with females usually bearing two litters per year (BBC, 2006). Chang et al. (1999b) reported that the house shrew in Taiwan is a continuous breeder, with greater activity and intensity occurring in spring and summer. A comparison between breeding populations from Guam and Madagascar showed some significant differences. Shrews from Madagascar had larger litters (average 2.8 young per litter) and shorter gestation periods (29.6 days) than shrews from Guam (2.1 young per litter, gestation 30.3 days). There were also a number of behavioural differences apparent (Hasler et al., 1977). A study on shrews in Guam found that food availability was the primary cue for reproduction in males, with social and photoperiod signals playing a modulatory role (Wayne and Rissman, 1990).
Nutrition
Although nominally an insectivore, the Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) is an opportunistic feeder and in some areas feeds predominantly on plant material (Advani and Rana, 1981). It also eats a wide range of invertebrates, and shrews on Mauritius showed a preference for snails during bait trial experiments (Varnham et al., 2002). A Bangladeshi study found that the diet of S. murinus was composed of 62% animal food (mostly insects), 29% plant food and 9% miscellaneous food items (Sarker and Parveen, 1986). Laboratory research has shown that S. murinus will eat bread, cake, pastry, jellies, peanut butter, boiled rice, boiled potato, boiled egg, and a wide range of insect species (Peterson, 1956). Taber et al. (1967) report that S. murinus can be easily attracted with peanut butter. S. murinus exhibits a definite preference for protein-rich materials in India, with food intake per gram body weight being higher in females than males. Feeding peaks at predawn hours, with a minimum occurring in the afternoon (Balakrishnan and Alexander, 1979b). S. murinus are generally solitary and have a high metabolic rate necessitating frequent feeding. Prey is killed by a characteristic neck bite, and the death-shake is seen when S. murinus feed on earthworms or rats. S. murinus have also been observed hoarding food when a large number of insects was offered (Balakrishnan and Alexander, 1979a).
Pathway
Due to it's commensal habit, this species is most likely transported unknowingly in cargoes or personal effects.

Principal source:

Compiler: Karen Varnham & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)

Review: Karen Varnham.

Publication date: 2006-04-06

Recommended citation: Global Invasive Species Database (2016) Species profile: Suncus murinus. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=162 on 09-12-2016.

General Impacts
The Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) can reach high densities and impact upon a wide range of other species, including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates, either through predation or competition. S. murinus is strongly implicated in the extirpation of several island lizard species (Jones 1993, Rodda & Fritts 1992, Fritts & Rodda 1998). It can damage seeds and young plants by digging for food (pers. obs.). S. murinus can also act as a reservoir for the plague (Duplantier et al., 2005).
Management Info
There has been little research into the control of the Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) and more research is urgently needed, especially in regard to potential poisons. Very little management work has so far been attempted with this species. Limited studies show this species to be relatively unsusceptible to brodifacoum and 1080 (Morris & Morris, 1991; Bell & Bell, 1996), though it is readily live trapped.

Preventative measures: Rodent-proof structures can exclude shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Cultural: Mowing around structures may decrease preferred habitat and food for shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Physical: Shrews can be trapped using mouse traps (snap traps), a small box trap, or pit traps. Pit traps are more useful in assessing the presence or absence of shrews in a particular location, as snap trapping appears to understate the abundance of shrews. Traps can be baited with a mixture of peanut butter and rolled oats. A small amount of bacon grease or hamburger may increase the attractiveness of the bait (Schmidt, 1994). Lee (1997) reported that aluminium live traps caught significantly more S. murinus than Japanese plastic snap traps. Live trapping has been used to successfully eradicate the musk shrew from a two hectare island in Mauritius, although a similar attempt failed on the neighbouring island of Ile aux Aigrettes (25 ha) (Varnham et al. 2002). A study by Seymour and colleagues (2005) suggests that the best hypotheses to explain the failure of the campaign was probably the survival of trap-shy shrews. It is observed that shrews target very specific prey, and are not attracted to conventional rodent baits; standard traps rarely work for shrews (B. Coblentz, pers. comm., 2003). Pitfall traps are often favoured for catching shrews (F.W. Schueler, pers. comm., 2003). As they nest under rocks and logs, grids of boards or other flat objects might be placed (and then uncovered periodically) to entice shrews. It may be possible to use dogs to track down survivors of trapping programmes. On Saipan (where shrews often raid pet bowls) snake traps baited with dog or cat food are used. The snake trap is a modified minnow trap with a flap over each door. The local boonie dogs are accustomed to hunting shrews as a part of their diet and are effective hunters (C. Kessler, pers. comm., 2003).

Chemical: Anticoagulant poisons such as brodifacoum have been used successfully to eradicate rats from many islands, however, insectivores such as the shrew S. murinus are less susceptible to the application of toxins such as brodifacoum or 1080; studies have suggested the toxin would have to be applied at unacceptably high concentrations to kill the animal (Eason et al. 2002, Morris and Morris 1991, in Seymour et al., 2005). Secondary poisoning of birds, which has occurred in the Seychelles for example, suggests that native or endangered birds may face undue risk because of excess use of such toxins (Shah 2001, Thorsen et al., 2000, in Seymour et al., 2005).

Biological: Cats may reduce shrew densities around structures - although they seldom eat them. Owls will consume large numbers of shrews. Mowing grass around structures may increase predation of shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Countries (or multi-country features) with distribution records for Suncus murinus
NATIVE RANGE
  • afghanistan
  • bhutan
  • china
  • india
  • japan
  • myanmar
  • nepal
  • pakistan
  • south east asia
  • sri lanka
  • taiwan
Informations on Suncus murinus has been recorded for the following locations. Click on the name for additional informations.
Lorem Ipsum
Location Status Invasiveness Occurrence Source
Details of Suncus murinus in information
Status
Invasiveness
Arrival date
Occurrence
Source
Introduction
Species notes for this location
Location note
Management notes for this location
Impact
Mechanism:
Outcome:
Ecosystem services:
Impact information
The Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) can reach high densities and impact upon a wide range of other species, including plants, invertebrates and vertebrates, either through predation or competition. S. murinus is strongly implicated in the extirpation of several island lizard species (Jones 1993, Rodda & Fritts 1992, Fritts & Rodda 1998). It can damage seeds and young plants by digging for food (pers. obs.). S. murinus can also act as a reservoir for the plague (Duplantier et al., 2005).
Red List assessed species 0:
Mechanism
Outcomes
[4] Environmental Ecosystem - Habitat
  • [4] Reduction in native biodiversity
Management information
There has been little research into the control of the Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus) and more research is urgently needed, especially in regard to potential poisons. Very little management work has so far been attempted with this species. Limited studies show this species to be relatively unsusceptible to brodifacoum and 1080 (Morris & Morris, 1991; Bell & Bell, 1996), though it is readily live trapped.

Preventative measures: Rodent-proof structures can exclude shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Cultural: Mowing around structures may decrease preferred habitat and food for shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Physical: Shrews can be trapped using mouse traps (snap traps), a small box trap, or pit traps. Pit traps are more useful in assessing the presence or absence of shrews in a particular location, as snap trapping appears to understate the abundance of shrews. Traps can be baited with a mixture of peanut butter and rolled oats. A small amount of bacon grease or hamburger may increase the attractiveness of the bait (Schmidt, 1994). Lee (1997) reported that aluminium live traps caught significantly more S. murinus than Japanese plastic snap traps. Live trapping has been used to successfully eradicate the musk shrew from a two hectare island in Mauritius, although a similar attempt failed on the neighbouring island of Ile aux Aigrettes (25 ha) (Varnham et al. 2002). A study by Seymour and colleagues (2005) suggests that the best hypotheses to explain the failure of the campaign was probably the survival of trap-shy shrews. It is observed that shrews target very specific prey, and are not attracted to conventional rodent baits; standard traps rarely work for shrews (B. Coblentz, pers. comm., 2003). Pitfall traps are often favoured for catching shrews (F.W. Schueler, pers. comm., 2003). As they nest under rocks and logs, grids of boards or other flat objects might be placed (and then uncovered periodically) to entice shrews. It may be possible to use dogs to track down survivors of trapping programmes. On Saipan (where shrews often raid pet bowls) snake traps baited with dog or cat food are used. The snake trap is a modified minnow trap with a flap over each door. The local boonie dogs are accustomed to hunting shrews as a part of their diet and are effective hunters (C. Kessler, pers. comm., 2003).

Chemical: Anticoagulant poisons such as brodifacoum have been used successfully to eradicate rats from many islands, however, insectivores such as the shrew S. murinus are less susceptible to the application of toxins such as brodifacoum or 1080; studies have suggested the toxin would have to be applied at unacceptably high concentrations to kill the animal (Eason et al. 2002, Morris and Morris 1991, in Seymour et al., 2005). Secondary poisoning of birds, which has occurred in the Seychelles for example, suggests that native or endangered birds may face undue risk because of excess use of such toxins (Shah 2001, Thorsen et al., 2000, in Seymour et al., 2005).

Biological: Cats may reduce shrew densities around structures - although they seldom eat them. Owls will consume large numbers of shrews. Mowing grass around structures may increase predation of shrews (Schmidt, 1994).

Locations
Management Category
Eradication
Control
Unknown
Bibliography
26 references found for Suncus murinus

Managment information
Atkinson, I. A. E. and Atkinson, T. J. 2000. Land vertebrates as invasive species on islands served by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme. In: Invasive Species in the Pacific: A Technical Review and Draft Regional Strategy. South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Samoa: 19-84.
Summary: This report reviews available information on the adverse effects of 14 alien vertebrates considered to be �significant invasive species on islands of the South Pacific and Hawaii, supplementing the authors� experience with that of other workers.
Bell, B. D. and Bell, E. 1996. Mauritius offshore islands project phase II. Implementation of management recommendations. Unpublished report by Wildlife Management International Ltd., to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and Government of Mauritius.
Summary: Contains information an abortive attempt to eradicate musk shrews from a Mauritian offshore island.
Bomford, M., 2003. Risk Assessment for the Import and Keeping of Exotic Vertebrates in Australia. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.
Summary: Available from: http://www.feral.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/PC12803.pdf [Accessed August 19 2010]
Cunningham, D.M. and Moors, P.J., 1993. Guide To The Identification And Collection Of New Zealand Rodents. Department of Conservation, NZ.
Summary: A Guide To The Identification And Collection Of New Zealand Rodents, information on trapping methods.
Morris, P. A. and Morris, M. J. 1991. Removal of shrews from the Ile aux Aigrettes. Unpublished report to the Mauritian Wildlife Appeal Fund.
Summary: A preliminary study of possible methods to remove shrews from a Mauritian offshore island. Includes information on attempts to control shrews with brodifacoum.
Seymour A, Varnham K, Sugoto Roy, Stephen Harris, Lucy Bhageerutty, Stuart Church, Alex Harris, Nancy V. Jennings, Carl Jones, Ashok Khadun, John Mauremootoo, Tabetha Newman, Vikash Tatayah, Charlotte Webbon, Gavin Wilson, 2005. Mechanisms underlying the failure of an attempt to eradicate the invasive Asian musk shrew Suncus murinus from an island nature reserve. Biological Conservation Volume 125, Issue 1, September 2005, Pages 23-35
General information
Advani, R. and Rana, B. D. 1981. Food of the house shrew, Suncus murinus sindensis in the Indian Desert. Acta Theriologica 26: 133-134.
Summary: Information about the diet of musk shrews in India.
Barbehenn, K. R. 1962. The house shrew on Guam. In Storer T. I. (ed.) Pacific Island rat ecology. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 225: 247�256.
Churchfield, S. 1990. The natural history of shrews.
Summary: In-depth book about the natural history of shrews.
Dryden, G. L. 1969. Reproduction in Suncus murinus. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility Supplement 6: 377-396.
Summary: Information about various aspects of reproduction in S. murinus.
Fritts, T. H. and Rodda, G. H. 1998. The role of introduced species in the degradation of island ecosystems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29: 113-140.
Summary: Describes the effects on introduced species on the native wildlife of Guam.
Gill, C. J. and Rissman, E. F. 1997. Female sexual behaviour is inhibited by short- and long-term food restriction. Physiology and Behaviour 61(3): 387-394.
Summary: Describes investigations into the processes controlling sexual and reproductive behaviour in Suncus murinus.
Hasler, M. J., Hasler, J. F. and Nalbandov, A. V. 1977. Comparative breeding biology of musk shrews (Suncus murinus) from Guam and Madagascar. Journal of Mammalogy 58(3): 285-290.
Summary: Contains comparisons of the breeding behaviour of shrews from two localities and describes attempts to cross shrews from the two groups.
Ishikawa, A., Yamagata, T. and Namikawa, T. 1991. An attempt at reciprocal crosses between laboratory strains of large and small musk shrews (Suncus murinus): influence of body weight difference between sexes on mating success. Experimental Animals 40.
Summary: Laboratory study of effects of body weight difference on mating success.
ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System), 2005. Online Database Suncus murinus
Summary: An online database that provides taxonomic information, common names, synonyms and geographical jurisdiction of a species. In addition links are provided to retrieve biological records and collection information from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Data Portal and bioscience articles from BioOne journals.
Available from: http://www.cbif.gc.ca/pls/itisca/taxastep?king=every&p_action=containing&taxa=Suncus+murinus&p_format=&p_ifx=plglt&p_lang= [Accessed March 2005]
Jones, C. G. 1993. The ecology and conservation of Mauritian skinks. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius 5: 71-95.
Summary: A description of the skinks of Mauritius, with discussion of their conservation status and threats posed to them.
Moutou, F. 1983. Introduction dans les �les: l exemple de l �le de la R�union. C.R Soc. Biog�ogr. 59 (2) : 201-211
Summary: This article presents the historic of introductions in the Reunion island
Nowak, R. M. and Paradiso, J. L. 1983. Walker s Mammals of the World.
Summary: Information on the distribution of all known mammal species, with synonyms, conservation status and other comments.
Probst J.-M. 1997. Animaux de la R�union. Azal�es Editions. 168 pp.
Probst J.-M. 1999. Catalogue des Vert�br�s de l��le de la R�union. Amphibiens, Reptiles, Oiseaux et Mammif�res se reproduisant sur l��le. Rapport DIREN. 167 pp.
Summary: Catalogue des vert�br�s indig�nes et exotiques de La R�union
Rodda, G.H. & Fritts, T.H. 1992. The impact of the introduction of the colubrid snake Boiga irregularis on Guam s lizards. Journal of Herpetology 26(2): 166-174.
Summary: Describes and discusses several lines of evidence illustrating the impact of brown tree snakes and, to a lesser extent, other introduced species on native lizard populations.
Ruedi, M., Courvoisier, C., Vogel, P. and Catzeflis, F. M. 1996. Genetic differentiation and zoogeography of the Asian house shrew Suncus murinus (Mammalia: Soricidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 57(4): 307-316.
Summary: Investigates the extent of genetic differentiation in musk shrews from different geographic locations.
Yosida, T. H. 1982. Cytogenetical studies on Insectivora, 2: Geographical variation of chromosomes in the house shrew, Suncus murinus (Sorcicidae), in east, southeast and southwest Asia, with a note on the karyotype, evolution and distribution. Japanese Journal of Genetics 57: 101-111.
Summary: Investigates variation in chromosome number in Asian populations of musk shrews.
Contact
The following 2 contacts offer information an advice on Suncus murinus
Triolo,
Julien
Geographic region: Indian Ocean
Ecosystem: Terrestrial
Organization:
Office National des For�ts
Address:
ONF. Domaine Forestier de la Providence, 97488 Saint Denis cedex
Phone:
692345283
Fax:
Varnham,
Karen
Musk shrew, Suncus murinus (Mauritius). Also Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus ( Antigua and Barbuda, and elsewhere in Caribbean)
Organization:
Address:

Phone:
Fax: