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Notes On the Behaviour of Shrews

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Observations were made on the behaviour of captive shrews during an ecological study. Sorex araneus and Neomys fodiens were found to burrow habitually, displaying two forms of digging behaviour; one used in getting food, and the other in making tunnels. S. araneus built nests using simple stereotyped movements. The aggressive behaviour of shrews is briefly described. Squeaking or screaming is the usual form of attack, but avoidance is often mutual. The aggressive behaviour is shown to function as territorial behaviour since fighting success is dependent upon the situation in which contact occurs. Sight, smell and sound all aid the shrew to achieve solitude and cause spacing-out of the population. Information about the social relationship between S. araneus and S. minutus was obtained from observation of mixed groups. The smaller species is shown to be almost entirely subordinate at inter-species contacts, and its ability to avoid the larger species appears to be due to its more acute senses. Mating behaviour in S. araneus is described.

Affiliations: 1: Bureau of Animal Population, Department of Zoological Field Studies, Oxford University


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