Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew
The Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew, Rhynchocyon chrysopygus, is the largest of all the unique African family, the elephant shrews. It is the size of a small rabbit, and lives is only found in the coastal Arabuko Sokoke National Park north of Mombassa in Kenya. Its name is dervived from the conspicuous golden fur on its hindquarters which contrasts strongly with its otherwise dark fur. On juveniles its fur shows vestigal traces of the checkerboard pattern seen on another giant elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon), the Checkered Elephant Shrew .
The Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew lives on the forest floor of evergreen forests, rooting through the leaf litter for 80% of the waking day looking for grasshoppers, beetles, spiders and other small invertebrates.
The Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew has evolved various stratagems to avoid predators, particularly snakes (like Black Mambas and cobras) and Southern Banded Harrier Eagles . It is very fast, capable of running at 25km/h. In the event of it detecting a predator within its 'flight distance' it will bound off. If, however, the predator is outside its flight distance the elephant shrew will advertise its presence by slapping the leaf litter. This lets the predator know that it has been seen and it should not waste its time chasing the elephant shrew. In the event of a chase, or an ambush, the golden flash of fur will also often deflect the predators attention away from the head and onto the rump, which has thickened skin. As a final precaution each shrew has several nests which it maintains, thus a predator finding a nest will not learn to associate them with potential food.
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