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Tree Shrews: Scandentia

Common Tree Shrew (tupaia Glis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Common tree shrews have a head and body length of about 7.5 inches (19.5 centimeters). They have a long, pointed snout. Their fur is darker on the upper side of their body than on their bellies. Upper side fur can be dark brown, pale brown, blackish gray or it can appear almost black. Their undersides are whitish, orange or rusty red, or a light or dark brown. Common tree shrews that live in northern areas with less rainfall are typically lighter than those in southern areas with greater rainfall.

They often have a pale stripe along their shoulder. Similar to a squirrel, common tree shrews have a long, bushy tail. It can be about as long as the length of the head and body. These animals have relatively small ears, with their lower lobe smaller than the upper one.

Common tree shrews typically live alone or with their mate. This pair is grooming each other. (R. Williams/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Common tree shrews are found in Thailand, the Malayan Peninsula, and in Sumatra, Java, and surrounding islands.

Habitat: Common tree shrews live in evergreen tropical rainforests.

Diet: Common tree shrews eat a varied diet that they collect primarily from the ground. Their food includes insects, particularly ants, as well as spiders, seeds, buds, leaves, and fruit. They can also eat lizards.

Behavior and reproduction: Active during the day, common tree shrews are extremely energetic. They spend a great deal of their time on the ground, yet they can also easily climb trees. They typically live alone or with a mate. Field studies in Malaysia have shown that breeding may occur at any time of year. Gestation periods last roughly forty-six to fifty days, and families produce one to three offspring. The newborn young are hairless, with closed eyes. The young are ready to leave the nest about thirty-three days after birth. The young are reared in a nest separated from that of the mother and are suckled every other day.

Common tree shrews and people: There is no known connection between common tree shrews and people.

Conservation status: Common tree shrews are not considered threatened. ∎



Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World Online. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997 http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/scandentia/scandentia.html (accessed July 1, 2004).

Stone, David, and the IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews-Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1995.


Bloch, Jonathan I., and Dough M. Boyer. "Grasping Primate Origins." Science (June 2001): 1606–1609.

Crosby, Olivia. "Wild Jobs with Wildlife: Jobs in Zoos and Aquariums." Occupational Outlook Quarterly (Spring 2001): 2–15.

Eckstrom, Christine. "What is a Tree Shrew?" International Wildlife (November/December 1996): 22–27.

Gore, Rick "The Rise of Mammals: Adapting, Evolving, Surviving." National Geographic (April 2003): 2–37.

"Tree Shrews Could Model a Number of Chronic and Infectious Human Diseases." Hepatitis Weekly (July 14, 2003): 8.

Web sites:

"Common Tree Shrew (Tupaia glis)." America Zoo. http://www.america.zoo.com/goto/index/mammals/83.htm (accessed on July 1, 2004).

Meyers Phil. "Order Scandentia." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Scandentia.html (accessed on July 1, 2004).

"Rainforest Animals: Common Tree Shrew." Missouri Botanical Garden. http://mbgnet.mobot.org/sets/rforest/animals/shrew.htm (accessed on July 1, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsTree Shrews: Scandentia - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Tree Shrews And People, Conservation Status, Common Tree Shrew (tupaia Glis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET