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Insectivores: Insectivora

Conservation Status

Dozens of insectivores around the world are threatened, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Thirty-six are listed as Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Forty-five are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild, and eighty-eight are Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. In the United States, only the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew is listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Scientists are beginning to rethink exactly which animals should be placed in the order Insectivora. Many scientists believe that two of the families traditionally placed under the Insectivora should fall under a separate order known as Afrotheria. Under this arrangement, the tenrecs and golden moles would be classified in Afrotheria with such animals as elephants and aardvarks. While this controversy continues, field biologists are still finding new species, especially in the tropics of Africa where the small, hidden shrews are particularly difficult to find.

Habitat destruction has proven to be the biggest danger to these species. As humans clear forests, farm more land, and use toxic chemicals to control plants and animals, populations of these small animals can be destroyed.



Nowak, R. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Wilson, D., and S. Ruff, eds. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999.

Web sites:

"2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species." World Conservation Union. http://www.redlist.org (accessed on July 1, 2004).

Haberl, Werner. The Shrew-ists Site. http://members.vienna.at/shrew/index.html (accessed on July 1, 2004).

"Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS)." U.S. Listed Vertebrate Animal Species Report. http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/TESSWebpageVipListed?code=V&listings=0#A (accessed on July 1, 2004).

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. "Order Insectivora." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Insectivora.html (accessed on July 1, 2004).

Other sources:

Insectivore Specialist Group (ISG). Hamburgerstrasse 11, A-1050 Vienna, Austria. E-mail: shrewbib@sorex.vienna.at Web site: http://members.vienna.at/shrew/itses.html.

IUCN/SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group. Web site: http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/ASG.html.

European Hedgehog Research Group (EHRG). Phone: +47 370 36 509. Fax: +47 370 35 050. E-mail: bsjohans@stud.hia.no Web site: http://www.ngo.grida.no/ngo/hedgehog/.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsInsectivores: Insectivora - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, INSECTIVORES AND PEOPLE