At first glance the solenodon is an unremarkable fellow. He looks like a big shrew, with an enormous head, a great big nose, a bit of a clumsy demeanour, all in all a bit of a shambles… consequently he is often stopped by Japanese tourists in the mistaken belief that he is British Royalty. Asides from his rather unfortunate manner he really is the most magnificent beast. You see it is his downright dimness that sets him apart from the other mammals, perhaps not that unrelenting dunce the Slow Loris, but we’ll get to him too.


The solenodon is one of the rarest creatures on the planet. At one point many different species of solenodon roamed across North America, now there are only two species left; the Haitian paradoxus and the Cuban cubanus. Incredibly scarce they are too as they have been decimated by the arrival of man, and more significantly cats, dogs and the introduced mongoose. Solenodon are simply just not cut out for being chased by these foreigners, the best they can muster in hasty retreat is a slow ungainly random waddle… locals go as far to say that they simply never travel in a straight line. If by some incredible chance their bimbling off like the Major after a night out actually gets them away from a predator, they will go and hide by placing their head under something to hide, yes that is correct just their head. Making this phenomenal dullard rather easy pickings.

Most mammals are really rather clever. They are fast to catch the most difficult of prey, like the mongoose taking down the cobra. They have complex communication systems and self-awareness like the dolphins. They are marvellously inventive like the humans who have made all sorts of extraordinary things like the gramophone, the Dewey decimal system and Alphabetti Spaghetti. Reptiles on the other hand aren’t known for their problem-solving skills, they haven’t even worked out a way of getting around without having to lie in the sun for half an hour. Along with that other bunch of half-wits the arthropods, the reptiles have developed an overcomplicated and rather ineffective method of attack and defense… venom. It may sound rather incredible that a little snake or spider can deliver a bite that can take down a rhino in a matter of half an hour, but that is a long time to wait when dealing with a creature who is rather large and quite frankly more than a little miffed that you had the audacity to bite him in the first place. So it would take a phenomenally stupid Mammal to develop such a bad way of attacking and defending itself. Yes you guessed it.

Solenodon teeth

Solenodon teeth

Solenodon means “groove tooth” and it’s in this grooved tooth that it uses to deliver its poisonous bite. It makes this chap one of the only venomous mammals, along with that other ball of useless fur the Slow Loris, and a couple of other waifs and strays. Still he is a rather magnificent chap and the world will be a much worse place if we were to lose him. One final point of note to shove the solenodon firmly into the annals of the Ever So Strange. The female of the species has really rather unusual teats. They are very long and placed almost on her buttocks, her spiky toothed young will hang on to them and be dragged around for their formative weeks… which could go a long way in explaining why they are really rather long.

Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 11:33 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Your article on this delightful amalgam of a mammal is much appreciated, and I would like to add the fact that the solenodon has, with minor evolutionary tweaks, lived, if not exactly thrived, on this good earth since the time of T-Rex. He comes from a very ancient strain of insectivorous mammals with a long-playing endurance record that would give Mick Jagger pause for breath…
    one anecdote I’ve read about the solenodon’s amazing tenacity
    involved tossing a live chicken in his path, whereupon he tore into it with the ferocity of a Freddy Krueger slasher film.

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