Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Insectivora / Soricidae / Crocidura / Species
Crocidura suaveolens - Lesser white-toothed shrew (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Scilly shrew
  • Garden shrew
  • Musaraigne des jardins (French)
  • Gartenspitzmaus (German)
  • Sorex suaveolens Pallas, 1811; Crimea, Russia
  • Crocidura cassiteridum Hinton, 1924; Isles of Scilly

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males --
Names for females --

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General Appearance

Typical shrew, mouse-like, with slender body, narrow pointed snout with conspicuous vibrissae, small eyes, short rounded ears, short legs, slender tail and rather short, dense fur (B142, B147).

Similar Species

  • Separation of Crocidura spp. from other shrews Sorex spp. and Neomys spp.: white (unpigmented) teeth, with three upper unicuspid teeth, more prominent ears and long scattered hairs on tail (B142).
  • Also slightly smaller and paler than Sorex coronatus - French shrew (B142).
  • Very similar to the slightly larger Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew: dental characteristics required for definitive identification (B142).
Sexual Dimorphism
  • Adult males: inguinal bulge (testes), more prominent lateral scent glands.
  • Adult females: prominent nipples when in oestrus and lactating.


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B51, B52, B141, B142, B143, B144, B147, B148, B221

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Shrews (Insectivores)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Shrews (Insectivores)

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Husbandry Information


  • Generally ignore one another in captivity but will share nests.(B142)

Shrews: provide soil, leaves, moss or similar to burrow in after capture, to avoid shock (B147).

Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Head-body length: 2-3.2ins./50-80mm (B144); 50-75mm (B142).
Height --
Adult weight General
  • 0.10.2oz./3-5.5g on mainland, 0.2-0.5oz./6-13g on islands (B144); 3-7g (B142).
Male --
Female --
New-born weight
  • 0.02-0.03oz./0.45-1g (B144); about 0.6g (B142).
Growth rate
  • Rapid, linear growth for 10-15 days after birth (B142).

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  • Nose: long, narrow, pointed, mobile, with long vibrissae (B142, B147).
  • Ears: prominent, with short hair (B142).
Dentition (Teeth)
  • I 3/1, C 1/0, PM 1/2, M 3/3. Total 28.
  • White (unpigmented).
  • Permanent teeth present at birth.
  • Three upper unicuspids, second unicuspid markedly smaller than third unicuspid

(B142, B144, B147).

Eyes Small (B142, B147)

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Legs and Tracks

  • Hindfoot length: 10-13mm (B142).
  • Plantigrade feet with five digits (B142).

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  • Length:1.1-1.7in./28-42mm (B144); 24-44mm (B142).
  • Long protruding white hairs, and short bristles (B142, B144).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • Short, dense.
  • Dorsal: greyish to reddish-brown.
  • Ventral: paler, greyish.
  • Fringe of short white hairs marks scent glands on flanks in males and females, all seasons, although better developed in males.

(B142, B144)

Variations (If present)
  • Fur may be slightly longer and thicker in winter/spring.
  • Ventral: may be slightly paler in winter/spring.


  • Spring moult: starts ventral head, moving dorsally and posteriorly.
  • Autumn moult: more rapid, starting posterior.
  • Males tend to moult before females.
  • (B142)
New-born / Juvenile --

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

Blind, hairless (B142).

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: three pairs of inguinal nipples (B142).
  • Scent glands: on flanks, marked by fringe of short white hairs, more developed in males (B142, B147).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • March-September (B142).
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Post partum oestrus (B142).
Gestation / Pregnancy
Parturition / Birth --
Neonatal development
  • Birth: hairless, to about 7-9 days
  • 10-13 days: eyes open
  • 16 days: fully haired, taking solid food
  • Caravanning from 8th day and particularly when first leave nest
  • (B142).
Litter size
Time between Litters / Litters per year
  • About once/month in captivity, with 3-4 or possibly more litters per year (B142).
Lactation / Milk Production
  • 17-22 days (B144); about 22 days (B142).
Sexual Maturity
  • 4-6 months (B144); 45-50 days minimum (B142).
  • 26-32 months in captivity (B144).
  • Up to 4 years in captivity, rarely more than 12-18 months in wild. Mortality highest in juveniles, and rarely survive second winter (B142).

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Natural Diet

  • Carnivorous: invertebrates, vertebrates (B144)
  • Isles of Scilly shores: mainly crustaceans - littoral amphipod Talitroides dorrieni, millipeds, adult flies, larval flies, spiders, mites (B142).
  • In captivity: various insects taken including grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, also spiders, woodlice, fresh fish, meat, grain (B142).

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces --
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes --
Other Lower metabolic rate than Sorex spp. or Neomys spp. (B142)

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Feeding Behaviour

Food intake 55% body weight/4.2-8.0 kJ/g per day (B142).

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Parental Behaviour


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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Less territorial than Sorex spp. and Neomys spp.
  • Basically solitary, but less so than Sorex spp.
  • Aggressive.
  • Islces of Scilly males average 50m long territory, maximum 80m, with females average 27m.
  • Often considerable overlap of home ranges (B142).
  • Apparently males dominant to females and old to young.
  • Defecate in prominent palces, may use this to mark home range.
  • "Belly marking" used in unfamiliar areas but also in home range, with chinning used less often. (B142).
  • Home range 56-395 square metres (B147).

(B52, B142, B147)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Little courtship, brief mating, female only receptive when in oestrus (B142)

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Predation in Wild

  • Owls, reptiles (B144)
  • Owls, foxes, weasels, cats (Channel Islands)
  • Possibly kestrels, cats (Isles of Scilly)
  • Occasionally stoats, foxes, genets, possibly snakes (France)
  • B142

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Activity Patterns

Very active, although less quick and agile than Sorex araneus - Eurasian common shrew (B52, B142).
  • Active day and night, but 80% activity nocturnal (more diurnal than this in summer)and in captivity peaks 0400-0500, 1800-1900.
  • Mean length of feeding cycle 30-50 minutes.
  • "Can be induced to reduce metabolism and become quite torpid". (B142)

(B52, B142)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • Near civilisation - in yards, open forests, coastal dunes, vineyards, olive groves, brushland, on banks of rivere and lakes on Corsica (B144)
  • Synanthropic (houses, gardens, parks) in north-eastern Europe and at higher altitudes. Western and southern Europe: wide variety of habitats excest dense forests, e.g. hedges, vineyards, olive groves, coastal sand dunes. In mountainous areas may also occur around boulders, in Mediterranean region both areas e.g. old terraces with stone walls, low maquis scrub, and wet areas with dense vegetation (B143).
  • Temperate woodlands and steppe areas (B147)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Burrows: use burrows of other small ammals but also make own burrows (B142).
  • Nest: in thick grass, or under logs/rocks/boulders, from dried grass, spherical, single chamber, tight-woven roof, several exits (B142).

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

  • Southwestern Europe and Arabia eastwards to Korea, China, Taiwan (B51).
  • "Palearctic south of the 54th parallel from the Atlantic coast to Japan (Tsushima island). Known from Israel and Saudi Arabia, Asia minor and the Caucasus, Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum deserts as far as Lake Balkhash (Kazakhstan), southern Kyrgyzstan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, lowlands of north-eastern China between Shanghai and Beijing." (B143)
  • Europe: "north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, western France (including some Atlantic and Channel islands) and from southern France to Italy and the Balkans, and to central and eastern Europe north to Poland. On most of the Mediterranean islands and on Menorca, Corsica, Elba and Capraia" (B143).
  • Eurasia, Arabian Peninsula, northern Africa, Minorca, Corsica, Crete, Lesbos, Cyprus (B147).
Occasional and Accidental --

Populations on Minorca, Corsica, Crete, Lesbos, Cyprus possibly introduced (B147).

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Intraspecific variation

  • "Morphologically and biochemically polymorphic" (B143).
  • Several subspecies (many from islands) described, but unclear status (B143). 
  • Crocidura suaveolus cassiteridum Hinton 1924, from Isles of Scilly described as darker, but not generally recognised as valid subspecies (B142).
  • "Allozyme and karyotype analyses demonstrated that shrews from Corsica, eastern Europe, Asia Minor and Israel previously considered as C. russala are in fact C. suaveolens." (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Common.; population density on Corsica 1.9-5.3 individuals/hectare (B144)
  • Less common generally than Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew and not very common in western part of range. (B143)
  • May be affected in agricultural areas by use of insecticides and other toxic chemicals.(B143).
  • In Britain: introduced to the Isles of Scilly in or before the Iron Age. In the UK, pre-breeding population estimate of about 14,000 all in England. Population estimate was "based on a very limited amount of information for the species" although additional knowledge "may not necessarily have made a substantial difference to the estimate". (B221)
General Legislation
  • Bern Convention Appendix III, with subspecies Crocidura suaveolus caneae and Crocidura suaveolus ariadne listed on Appendix II (B143)
  • All shrews are listed on Schedule 6 (Animals which may not be killed or taken by certain methods) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Insecticides and other toxic chemicals (B143).
Captive Populations --
Trade --

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