The World's Smallest Elephant Shrew Discovered

These animals look like snout-y mice but are more closely related to elephants.

New shrew

The newfound elephant shrew, Macroscelides micus.Dumbacher et al / Journal of Mammology

In a remote area of northwest Namibia, scientists found a rust-colored shrew, which hides amongst the area's reddish volcanic rocks. Further analysis found that it was a new species, and the smallest of a group of animals called elephant shrews. These (adorable) creatures look mouse-like but are in fact more closely related genetically to elephants, sea cows, hyraxes and aardvarks.

They also have some other bizarre features--they typically give birth to twins "which hit the ground running like the calves of some types of African antelope," Reuters reported:

[Study co-author John] Dumbacher likened the newly discovered mammal to a small antelope in its physique and sleeping habits and to a scaled-down anteater in hunting techniques and preferred prey. Like an antelope, the creature has long, spindly legs relative to its body size, and hunkers down next to bushes to sleep rather than burrowing. Like an anteater, it uses its extended nose to sweep the ground in search of ants and other insects.

The scientists have named the animal Macroscelides micus. Adults measure seven inches long, including the tail, and weigh only 27 grams, about the weight of two tablespoons of sugar. And what sweet shrews they are.

A study describing the creatures was published in the Journal of Mammalogy.