One of the world’s smallest mammals ….

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Grey climbing mouse
Pic: K. Cole

A tiny mouse, Dendromus melanotis (Grey climbing mouse), found its way into a home in Beacon Bay (EL) this past week. They weigh less than 7 grams! One of the distuiguishing features of identifying these mammals is to look at the shape of the feet. The hindfeet have the fifth digit expressed as a stub and not a claw (see photo below) and the forefeet have a hollow tubercle as the fifth digit and not a claw.

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Note the fifth digit on the hindfoot is not a claw
Pic: K. Cole

They are a widespread species found in tall stands of grass (especially if mixed with bushes). They are mostly nocturnal and use the burrows of other rodents and holes dug by dung beetles. A speciality climber, using a long tail to twine around grass stems, it moves with agility up and down twigs and stems.

Litters of up to 4 are born in summer and they feed in insects and seeds.

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Pic: K. Cole

The smallest mammal in South Africa is the Least Dwarf Shrew Suncus infinitesimus, which also occurs in the East London region. These animals weigh about 3 grams and are less than the length of a human thumb!

Reference: Smithers’ Mammals of southern Africa – A Field Guide (2000). Edited by Peter Apps

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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