One of the most famous ‘living fossils’ and one of only a few venomous mammals, the Hispaniolan Solenodon is one of the last representatives of an ancient lineage of shrew like mammals that lived with dinosaurs from 76 million years ago.
Along with the Cuban solenodon, it is one of only a few mammal species capable of producing venomous saliva, which it injects into its prey through specialised grooves in its incisors. These specialisations are where it gets the name solenodon, meaning ‘slotted-tooth’. Along with the Cuban solenodon, they are the only members of the genus Solenodon, and family Solenodontidae. Its dental venom delivery system may also be an ancestral characteristic shared throughout ancient mammals.
They had persisted successfully on the island of Hispaniolan as the apex predator, until European colonisation introduced rats, mongoose, feral cats and dogs. This coupled with habitat degradation has led to them being listed as endangered. The Haitian population and the southern Dominican Republic population may represent a distinct species, and is already differentiated as a different subspecies.
- Order: Eulipotyphla
- Family: Solenodontidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 280-390mm
- Weight: 1kg
The Hispaniolan solenodon are endemic to the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There are two populations which may represent two distinct sub species, one in northern Hispaniola, and one in the south of the island.
Habitat and Ecology
This species is found in forests and brush country. They are nocturnal, and find shelter during the day by burrowing or hiding in hollow logs or crevices. Classed as an insectivore, the solenodon feeds mostly on spiders and insects found in the soil. The solenodon is one of the few species of mammal that can produce toxic saliva (along with some species of shrew). A special groove in the second incisor carries the venom to its prey. The reproductive rate of this species is low, with females producing two litters containing 1-3 offspring per year. The young stay with their parents for several months, while other offspring are born and raised. The lifespan of wild solenodons is thought to be relatively long, as one individual survived for more than eleven years in captivity.