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Order Description


Order Description

The Order Insectivora includes shrews, hedgehogs, and moles. The order's name is a clue as to what these animals prefer to eat. Although they will also consume other small invertebrates and vertebrates, most of their diet is insects. Insectivores are small to medium in size, with long pointed snouts, small ears and eyes, and numerous sharp teeth.

Insectivores are very active animals with short life spans and high reproductive rates. Some species have such high metabolic rates that they must eat twice their body weight per day to survive.

The Order Insectivora includes the smallest mammals on earth. The pigmy shrew is the smallest mammal in the southeastern United States. There are 8 families with 420 species world-wide. Ten of the 12 species found in the southeastern United States occur in Georgia.

Family Soricidae

This family includes several species of shrews. Shrews have small elongate skulls, small eyes and ears, and short legs. These very active mammals can be found in almost every habitat. They spend a large part of their time hunting for food. Shrews are found over most of North America, but many of the species are difficult to distinguish from one another. Seven species are known to occur in Georgia.
Species in this family:
    American Water Shrew (Sorex palustris)
    Cinereus or Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus)
    Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva)
    Long-tailed or Rock Shrew (Sorex dispar)
    Northern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
    Pygmy Shrew (Sorex hoyi)
    Smoky Shrew (Sorex fumeus)
    Southeastern Shrew (Sorex longirostris)
    Southern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina carolinensis)

Family Talpidae

This family is limited to moles. Moles are easily recognized by their body shape and adaptations for underground life. They have a stout body with short legs, and their feet are wider than they are long. Moles have front feet with large claws that they use for digging. Their eyes are either very small or absent, and their fur is short and thick. Three mole species occur in the Southeastern United States, and two of these species can be found in Georgia.
Species in this family:
    Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus)
    Hairy-tailed Mole (Parascalops breweri )
    Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata )