Hainan Gymnure
(Neohylomys hainanensis)
There are eight species of gymnure. Although these species are related to hedgehogs, they more closely resemble rats or opossums, with which they share similar habits and ecological niches. This is an example of parallel evolution. Very little is known about the Hainan gymnure - it was originally described as being subterranean, but it is now thought that it merely uses burrows as refuges rather than foraging underground. The species is thought to be threatened since its evergreen forest habitat is being cleared for timber and agricultural expansion.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Habitat protection, further surveys to establish precise distribution, research into ecology and habitat requirements to inform conservation recommendations.
Hainan Island, southern China.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Erinaceomorpha
Family: Erinaceidae
The family Erinaceidae consists of hedgehogs (subfamily Erinaceinae), and moonrats or gymnures (subfamily Galericinae). Hedgehogs can be easily distinguished from moonrats and gymnures by their barbless spines which cover their backs and sides. Gymnures resemble primitive rodents with long muzzles. All members of this subfamily lack spines. Fossil erinaceids are known from the middle Paleocene to the early Pliocene in North America (60-7 million years ago). The family also dates back to the early Miocene (25 million years ago) in Africa, the late Paleocene (55 million years ago) in Europe, and the Eocene (45 million years ago) in Asia. The Galericinae comprises eight species in five genera (Echinosorex, Podogymnura, Hylomys, Neotetracus and Neohylomys). This species was formerly called Hylomys hainanensis and is now only species in its genus.
Head and body length: 120-147 mm
Tail length: 36-44 mm
Weight: 50-70 g
This insectivore has a long, blunt snout and well developed eyes and ears. The coat is a rusty brown or grey colour, with a long, black stripe running along the centre of the back. The underparts are a pale grey or yellowish-white colour. The ears, feet and tail are almost naked, having only a few small scattered hairs. This gymnure can be distinguished from rats and shrews by its large ears and short thin tail, which is less than a third of the body length.
Very little is known about the ecology of this species. As with most insectivores, the Hainan gymnure is nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). It was originally described as subterranean, but it is now thought that it merely uses burrows as refuges rather than foraging underground. It feeds on beetles and other insects.
Recorded from primary and disturbed tropical rainforest, apparently preferring areas with wood- or rock piles. It was thought to prefer higher altitude but has recently also been found down to ~500 m.
Restricted to mountainous areas in central and western parts of Hainan Island, off southern China.
Population Estimate
Unknown, but believed to be rare.
Population Trend
Classified as Endangered (EN B1ab(iii)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Its evergreen forest habitat is under threat from illegal clearance for timber and agricultural expansion. Local tradition of trapping forest rodents for food may pose an additional threat because it shares the same habitat.
Conservation Underway
No specific conservation measures in place, although most forests where the species currently occurs have been designated as nature reserves.
Conservation Proposed
Habitat protection is the most important conservation action required. This species should be taken into consideration when establishing nature reserves. Further surveys are needed to establish the exact distribution of the species, followed by research into the animal’s ecology and habitat so that appropriate conservation actions can be implemented.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Smith, A.T., Johnston, C.H. & Lunde, D. 2008. Neohylomys hainanensis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 14 November 2010.

Stone, D. (Compiler). 1996. Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews: Status, Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

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