The Etruscan shrew, contender for the title of smallest mammal in the world
The Bumblebee Bat is the animal most commonly given the title as the smallest mammal on Earth based on skull size and length. However, the Etruscan pygmy shrew, otherwise known as the white-toothed pygmy shrew, is the smallest mammal by mass. This tiny member of the Soricidae family weighs an average of only around 1.8 grams, while the Bumblebee Bat tops out at an average of 2 grams. The Etruscan shrew is longer than the Bumblebee Bat, growing to an average of 1.6 inches long not including their mouse like tails. These tiny mammals have large heads with protruding mobile snouts. Their fur is usually light grey on the stomach and a pale brown over the back and sides.
The Etruscan shrew, like other shrews, have a very fast metabolism and must eat about 2 times their own body weight a day to stay alive. Their large heats beat an average of 25 beats per second. In part due to their fast heart rate and metabolism, Etruscan shrews are estimated to live an average of only 2 years. They move around very rapidly, and are known to hibernate temporarily during times of cold or food shortage. These tiny shrews use their short whiskers to search out their prey, which normally consists of small insects.
The white-toothed pygmy shrew can be found in Malaysia, North Africa, and Europe. They prefer warm damp climates and normally live solitary lives. In many of their natural habitats these shrews are rare and in some places are considered endangered. Human interaction, mostly consisting of habitat distruction, is the highest contributor to the Etruscan shrew's decline. They are most active at dawn, and make chirping sounds to protect their territories. Etruscan shrews breed year round and produce a litter of between 2 to 6 babies up to once every 28 days. Baby shrews become sexually mature when they are only about 4 weeks old.