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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Elliot's Short-tailed Shrew
Order Insectivora : Family Soricidae : Blarina hylophaga Elliot

Description. Elliot’s short-tailed shrew is nearly identical in appearance to the southern short-tailed shrew, B. carolinensis; both being tiny, slate-gray to brownish colored shrews with short tails and no external ears. B. hylophaga differs in having slightly larger cranial measurements and a noticeably larger fourth premolar. Also, B. hylophaga tends to be grayish in coloration, whereas B. carolinensis is often tinged with brown. Dental formula and external measurements as in B. carolinensis.

Species distribution mapDistribution in Texas. Known in Texas only from Aransas, Montague, and Bastrop counties. Pleistocene fossils of this shrew are known from cave sites throughout the Hill Country.

Habits. In Aransas County, these shrews inhabit mottes of live oak trees on sandy soils, where they excavate their diminutive burrows. In Bastrop County, they have been collected in pitfall traps placed in grassy vegetation with an overstory of loblolly pine. Specimens from Montague County were obtained in a pitfall trap set in grassy vegetation several meters from some post oak trees. As with B. carolinensis, they may burrow extensively under leaf litter, logs, and deeply into the soil, but ground cover is not required. At Aransas Wildlife Refuge their burrows may be in areas with little or no ground cover, but are always where soft, damp soils afford easy burrowing.

As with the southern short-tailed shrew, this shrew is slightly venomous and may occasionally prey on animals larger than itself, such as mice. More frequently consumed food items are insects, arthropods, and earthworms.

Females produce two to three litters of four to six young each year. Breeding season and reproductive habits are probably similar to B. carolinensis. B. hylophaga has an average lifespan of only 2 years.

Remarks. The best way to distinguish this species from its cryptic relative, B. carolinensis, is to study the karyotype (number and morphology of chromosomes). That of hylophaga has a diploid number of 52 and a fundamental number of 60, 61, or 62; carolinensis has a diploid number of 37-46 and a fundamental number of 44.