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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Canned shrew

Winter is a good time to find canned and bottled shrews.

Many walkers around here deem their daily communion with nature incomplete without the comfort of a brewski or two, and tossing the cans or bottles in the brush is apparently de rigeur.

Shrews are attracted to the containers at any time of year, but codgers can find them more easily in winter and redeem them for cash.

Nonetheless, it's been a coon's age since I've found a canned or bottled shrew.

So when I saw that can of Mickey's Malt Liquor tilted upward in the duff I went for it.

It had several ounces left in it, and I could tell there was something soggy in there too.

Sure enough, it was another Trowbridge shrew (Sorex trowbridgeii).

It was the right size and color, and the tail was bicolored, but in winter the wandering shrew (Sorex vagrans) looks quite similar.

The definitive identification had to wait until I could look at its 4 unicuspid teeth.

The photo doesn't do justice to the structure of the teeth, but it gives an idea of what you see under the dissecting scope.

Just keeping the wet shrew on the microscope stage while lifting the upper lip is a frustrating exercise, but that's what it takes to see the 4 diagnostic unicuspid teeth. Their relative size differs between species. The pigmented upper incisor is also slightly grooved.

Trowbridge and wandering shrews are the two common species I've found here.

Empty beer cans and bottles are not encyclopedias, but looking into them is a good way to learn about your local shrews.

Redeem them at your local recycling center, and you can actually get paid to learn about charismatic micro-mammals.


john said...

I don't know what Mickey's Malt Liquor tastes like, but I guess that shrew went out in a happy state of oblivion.

JK said...

You have yourself a dissection scope?

Super jealous.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Yes, a retirement gift from my staff. But you can see those little teeth with a hand lens, the kind the botanists use to look at flower anatomy. Not sure of the power maybe 20x.

randomtruth said...

Us botany-types stole hand lenses from the geologists. Mine is one of the standards - a Bausch & Lomb Hastings Triplet 10x.

Owlman said...

Takes a shrewed codger to make a buck by recycling tossed cans.
I have a hand lens made in China that works well for looking at tiny teeth,plants,etc.

Jeffrey said...

Are the shrews small enough to get in via the pop-top hole of a can of beer? Am I right in thinking that is how they would get into a beer can?