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Solenodons (Family Solenodontidae)Solenodons are venomous, nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammals belonging to the family Solenodontidae. They retain primitive characteristics and living species resemble those living near the end of the age of the dinosaurs.
Solenodons resemble very large shrews with very extremely elongated cartilaginous snouts, long, naked, scaly tails, small eyes, and coarse, dark brown to black hair. The snout is flexible and that of the Hispaniolan solenodony has a ball-and-socket joint at the base to increase its mobility. This lets the animal investigate narrow crevices where potential prey may be hiding. Solenodons are 28-32 cm (11-13 in) from nose to rump and weigh 0.7-1.0 kg (1.5-2.2 lb). They have a relatively unspecialised, and almost complete dentition, with a dental formula of:22.214.171.124 per jaw.
They are very easily agitated and may squeal or bite with little or no provocation. Venomous saliva flows from modified salivary glands in the mandible through grooves on the second lower incisors ("solenodon" derives from the Greek "grooved tooth"). The saliva is very similar neurotoxically to the venom of some snakes. Solenodons create venom in enlarged submaxillary glands and inject it through their bottom set of teeth. Symptoms of a solenodon bite include general depression, breathing difficulty, paralysis and convulsions; large enough doses may kill laboratory mice.
Solenodons feed mainly on insects, earthworms and other invertebrates, but also eat vertebrate carrion, and perhaps small reptiles, amphibians and other vertebrates. They use their olfactory senses to find food by sniffing the ground till they come upon their prey. They can use their sharp claws to get through physical barriers. They bring the forelimbs up to either side of small prey, move the head forward, open the jaw and catching the prey (4) and eat it at once. Males and female captives may have different eating habits. Females scatter food so they do not miss any morsels when they forage (4). Males use the tongue to lap up food and use the lower job as a scoop (4). ]
Females give birth to 1-2 young in a nesting burrow. The young stay with the mother for several months and initially follow the mother about by hanging on to her elongated teats, which are almost on her buttocks. Adults are solitary animals and rarely interact except to breed.
]Both species became endangered due to Asian mongooses, which were introduced in colonial times to hunt snakes and rats, and by feral cats and dogs. Both species have been considered extinct a few times, probably more due totheir secretive and elusive behavior than to low population numbers. They do not tolerate habitat degradation and loss.
Solenodons may be related to the Family Nesophontidae and were thought to be related to the tenrecs (Family Tenrecidae), which have now been placed in a separate order, Afrosoricida.