American water shrew

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American water shrew[1]
Exhibit Museum of Natural History, Ann Arbor - IMG 9035.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Eulipotyphla
Family: Soricidae
Genus: Sorex
S. palustris
Binomial name
Sorex palustris
Sorex palustris distribution.svg
Distribution of the American water shrew in Northern America

The American water shrew (Sorex palustris) or northern water shrew, is found in the nearctic faunal region located throughout the mountain ranges of northern United States and in Canada and Alaska.[3]


The American water shrew is considered a species that is sexually dimorphic in which the males are in general bigger and heavier than the females. The size of the shrew is 130–170 mm (5.1–6.7 in) and weight is 8–18 grams (0.28–0.63 oz). Their tails range from 57–89 mm (2.2–3.5 in). The shrew contains black and brown fur colors and changes depending on the season. The color changes to lighter brown in the summer and a black color in the winter.[4] Air bubbles are trapped in the thick fur when the animal dives under water. The air bubbles help the shrew with buoyancy and also allow it to engage in a behavior called “water-walking”. The water shrew can dive underwater for about 15 seconds, but is only able to if it is swimming vigorously. The air bubbles allow the shrew to swim, but as soon as the shrew stops swimming, then it shoots back up to the surface.[5] Its feet have a fringe of hairs, more visible on the larger hind feet, which allow this animal to run on the water's surface.

Dentition and eating habits[edit]

The American water shrew has a larger skull ranging from 21–23 mm (0.83–0.91 in) and width 10–11 mm (0.39–0.43 in) and has a dental formula of × 2 = 32 teeth. They swim well and make short dives in search of food. The shrew prefers aquatic insects such as stoneflies and craneflies. They are known to also feed on small fish, vegetation, and snails. Shrews require much food and cannot go without food for any more than three hours because of their high metabolic rate.[3] They are thought to use echolocation to help find prey.


American water shrew with newborn young

The American water shrew tends to breed from December to September and females usually have a three-week gestation period, and offspring are born in the spring and summer. They usually produce two to three litters during that time. These litters can contain three to 10 offspring.[3]


The American water shrew has nine subspecies:[1]

  • S. p. albibarbis
  • S. p. brooksi
  • S. p. gloveralleni
  • S. p. hydrobadistes
  • S. p. labradorensis
  • S. p. navigator
  • S. p. palustris
  • S. p. punctulatus
  • S. p. turneri


  1. ^ a b Hutterer, R. (2005). Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Whittaker, J.C.; Hammerson, G. & Norris, S.J. (2008). "Sorex palustris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Carmen, Ma. "Sorex palustris water shrew". Animal Diversity Web.
  4. ^ "Water Shrew" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-09.
  5. ^ DeGraaf, Richard; Rudis, Deborah. "Water Shrew" (PDF).