The Secret Life of the Streaked Tenrec, Madagascar’s Striped and Spiky Wonder
The streaked tenrec is a peculiar little creature that looks like a cross between a hedgehog, a porcupine – and a zebra. And it sports a mohawk!
Look at that amazing ‘hairstyle’! Image credit: Alan Harper
Found only in Madagascar, the lowland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) is known for its unusual appearance, as well as its peculiar behaviors and adaptations.
This adorable little critter (its average site is 140 mm or 5.5 in) has spikes all over its body, which it uses to protect itself from predators. But the most notable feature of the streaked tenrec’s appearance is its yellow or chestnut-brown stripes that run the length of the body on its black spiny pelage, making it look like it’s wearing a little zebra costume. It’s hard not to smile when you see a streaked tenrec running around with its cute little stripes.
A tentrec nosing something out. Probably an earthworm. Image credit: Charles Hesse
Now, let’s move on to some of the streaked tenrec’s more interesting behaviors. One of the most unique things about these animals is their ability to echolocate. That’s right, just like bats, streaked tenrecs use sound waves to navigate their environment and find prey. They produce clicking sounds with their mouths and then listen for the echoes to determine the location of their prey.
Additionally, the stridulation sounds produced by their specialized spikes have also been linked to having an echolocatory function. It’s like they have their own little built-in sonar system!
Hallo, a tentrec is coming! Image credit: Frank Vassen
Before giving birth, a pregnant female will excavate a depression in the ground inside the burrow, utilizing her snout as a spade. In order to deter potential predators, the Streaked tenrec will exhibit its quills. If compelled to confront another species, it will employ a forceful headbutt with the goal of immobilizing its adversary.
The lowland streaked tenrec is active both day and night and primarily feeds on earthworms, although it may also consume other invertebrates. To facilitate foraging, it will occasionally stamp its fore-paws on the ground, which is believed to enhance earthworm activity. Similar to other tenrecs, it possesses a long snout suitable for digging in the ground to locate its food. However, the streaked tenrec’s consumption of earthworms may lead to tooth corrosion due to the dirt’s tendency to cause scratches and pits.
A bunch of spikes and a mohawk. Image credit: Thierry Cordenos
The streaked tenrec is definitely a fascinating and adorable little animal that deserves more attention. But not over-attention, of course. So, if you ever find yourself in Madagascar, and come across one of these little critters, just don’t get too close, or you might find yourself on the receiving end of some of those black and yellow spikes!