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Species of the Day – Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)

December 24, 2012

Species of the Day - Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)

Cuban Solenodon is one of the most unusual and ancient mammal species to be found on Earth, Along with the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) both species are believed to be “living fossil” that have not changed much in millions of years. Unlike most of the other endemic land mammals that used to occur on West Indies, solenodons have managed to survive until the present day. In 2012 a team of scientist rediscovered Cuban solenodons after 10 years since they were last sighted, giving much needed hope for the conservation of the endangered species in Cuba.

 The Cuban solenodon is found in dense, humid forests and brush country to elevations of 2000 m. Small frogs, insects and spiders, found in soil and in leaf litter form most of its diet. This species is mainly nocturnal and Adult solenodons are solitary, other than mothers with young. Solenodons reproductive rates are low, with females giving birth to just two litters of typically a single young per year. Solenodons are some of the few mammals known to science that are venomous. 

 Cuban solenodon is limited to Oriente Province at the southeastern end of Cuba, until relatively recently the species was widely distributed in both the eastern and western ends of Cuba. There remains have been found from Late Quaternary and Amerindian sites all over the island. By 1970, some thought that the Cuban solenodon had become extinct, since no specimens had been found since 1890. Solenodon sightings since then have been few and far between and only single solenodon was spotted in 2003 in the mountainous Alejandro de Humboldt National Park. Conservationist finally had success in March and April of 2012, when seven solenodons were captured indicating that the specie might be recovering.

 Cuban Solenodon are classified as Endangered (EN B1ab(iii,v)) on the IUCN Red List . Invasive predators like feral dogs and cats are probably the greatest threat to this species. In addition to predation by introduced predators, Deforestation is also a factor contributing to the solenodon’s rarity.            Cuban solenodon are protected by the Cuban law and important populations occur within at least two National Parks (the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in the north-eastern part of Cuba, and the Sierra del Cristal National Park, in Holguin province in eastern Cuba). Further studies also need to be carried out into the distribution, abundance and ecology of the species in other regions of eastern Cuba. The impact of introduced predators and potential competition with black rats on the species should be assessed.


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