ar8922's picture

Pygmy Shrew

Observed: 16th June 2013 By: ar8922
S159 Neighbourhood Nature - course complete
ar8922’s reputation in Mammalsar8922’s reputation in Mammalsar8922’s reputation in Mammals
IMG_3970
Description:

Sorry, not a great photo, so you'll have to take my word for it but this is definitely a Pygmy Shrew... found as part of a Devon Mammal Group survey.
Please note: the shrew was initially examined dry, when the 3-tone colouration was more obvious, before the rain got to it.

Identifications
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Comments

the naturalist man's picture

Shrew

I'm afraid it's impossible to confirm this is a pygmy shrew from the photo, if you have any photos showing the tail then please add them. Te animal looks very wet, was it alive?

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

ar8922's picture

Definitely a Pygmy Shrew

Hi Graham, my understanding is that iSpot isn't just about photographic evidence, so please also refer to the description.

The shrew was very much alive and wriggling hard (it was just a very wet day) and unfortunately I didn't have time to take any more photos before it was released. We had an expert mammalogist training us, so I'm absolutely sure it was a Pygmy Shrew.

We'd also just found a dead Common Shrew (plus living field voles and wood mice) so we had a good basis for comparison.

the naturalist man's picture

Identifications

An interesting point, and not an easy one to answer. iSpot is about recording wildlife and I would encourage observations, even if there is not a photo, on the basis I may not click the 'agree' button but just find the observation interesting.

However, once anyone with an expert rating agrees with a record it gets full reputation points and will then find its way into the NBN records, via iRecord and, in this case, to The Mammal Society. These records can then be used by researchers, Wildlife Trusts, Local Authorities etc. to make important conservation decisions.

Therefore, iSpot 'experts' have a responsibility to be cautious about agreeing with an observation where we can not identify the animal from a photo. There have been cases, and I am not for one minute suggesting it is the case with your posting, of people copying descriptions from books (I've seen this most often in bird postings) and at least one case where they still got it wrong compared to the photo they supplied!

This is a tricky problem with all wildlife records, without evidence should regional/national/specialist recorders accept records from people whose expertise they know nothing about? Hence my question about any other photos.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/8411

ar8922's picture

Identifications

Valid points Graham and probably information that should be made apparent to iSpot users more often. Copying descriptions from books is an obvious temptation.

In this particular instance the biological record has already been verified and logged by the Devon Mammal Group and will soon also be submitted to the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, along with all the other mammal data we collected over the weekend. I'm not sure who else the DBRC share their data with though.

For reference we also dissected the dead Common Shrew and examined that in detail.

Gill Sinclair's picture

Shrew species

Have added an ID of shrew/Sorex species that we can agree with. Must admit I'm a wee bit concerned at how wet the shrew got before it was released - I assumed when I first saw the photo that it was dead!

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
www.gillsinclair.net
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

ar8922's picture

Shrew species

Hi Gill, I understand your logic, especially given the poor photo but I'm disappointed you felt the need to add a more generic identification based on the additional information provided.

This capture was part of a 2-week long Devon Mammal Group training exercise and the identification has been confirmed by 3 experienced members of that group, one of which is a former FSC Director of Studies and hugely knowledgeable. As such, I wasn't really posting this observation to gain confirmation but as an already verified biological record.

As it was a training survey, I suspect the shrew was handled for slightly longer than it would have been by experienced mammalogists but I can assure you it was for no longer than was necessary and it was released in good health. No time was spent weighing, sexing or examining it beyond the species identification and it was only as wet as pictured for a matter of seconds, which is why I only took one quick snap.