Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Success By Learning: Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey By Its Shape

Date:
May 17, 2008
Source:
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine
Summary:
The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) is one of the world's smallest mammals. It is about four centimetres long and weighs merely two grams. Being a nocturnal animal, it hunts predominantly with its sense of touch. "As quick as a flash, the Etruscan shrew scans its prey and adapts, when necessary, its hunting strategy," explained one of the researchers. "Thus, no prey escapes."

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) is one of the world’s smallest mammals. It is about four centimetres long and weighs merely two grams. Being a nocturnal animal, it hunts predominantly with its sense of touch. Professor Michael Brecht (Bernstein Center for Computional Neuroscience, Berlin) now reported on the particularities of its hunting behaviour at the international conference “Development and function of somatosensation and pain” at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. “As quick as a flash, the Etruscan shrew scans its prey and adapts, when necessary, its hunting strategy,” explained Brecht in his talk. “Thus, no prey escapes.”

Related Articles


The smaller an animal is, the greater is its loss of warmth over its surface. To avoid starvation, the Etruscan shrew has to constantly compensate for this life-threatening energy loss. Thus, it consumes twice its weight every day and feeds on crickets, cockroaches, and spiders. Since the prey are nearly as big as their predator, the shrew has to attack fast and well directed.

Etruscan shrews hunt in the night and must rely on their sense of touch. With long whiskers at the snout, they can locate potential prey and recognize whom exactly they are facing. Afterwards, the shrews kill their prey using directed attacks. The researchers could observe that they track down crickets with a forceful bite in the back.

To investigate whether the animals recognize their prey by its shape, they offered the Etruscan shrews a plastic cricket. Though the artificial animal neither moved nor smelled, the Etruscan shrews attacked the plastic prey up to 15 times. “The Etruscan shrews trust in their sense of touch and the tactile shape recognition in an extent we do not know from other animal species,” reported Brecht at the MDC conference.

“Also, the animals can adjust quickly to new situations”, Brecht pointed out. To examine this theory, the scientists exchanged the living crickets with a giant cockroach. This new animal differs clearly from the natural prey of the shrews. The back of the cockroach is protected by a heavy shield and is therefore saved from the normal attacks of the Etruscan shrews. However, the experiments showed that the shrews succeeded in adapting their natural hunting strategy to the new prey in very short time.

Quickly, they realized that the belly is the cockroach’s weak point. “The shrews are learning during the hunt and use the new knowledge right away,” said Brecht. “Even the giant cockroach can not escape.“


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. "Success By Learning: Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey By Its Shape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080516111849.htm>.
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. (2008, May 17). Success By Learning: Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey By Its Shape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080516111849.htm
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. "Success By Learning: Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey By Its Shape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080516111849.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — This rescued pygmy marmoset named Ninita is obsessed with her toothbrush. It's cuteness overload, and Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the amazing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 19, 2014) — Two big chocolate producers are warning the popular treat could run out by 2020 because people are eating it faster than farmers can grow cocoa. Ciara Lee reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — A tiny hamster and a bunny and rat enjoy a tiny Thanksgiving meal where they stuff themselves to the brim. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the cute video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — A giant panda at the Toronto Zoo named Da Mao is celebrating the northeast snowfall by playing and tumbling in the snow in his outdoor enclosure. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins