Thor’s Hero Shrew

A new and remarkable species of shrew has been described, and the discovery published today in Biology Letters. It is the second-known species of a genus known as “Hero shrews” because of their incredible interlocking vertebral columns - unlike that of any other mammal - and has been given the name Thor’s hero shrew (Scutisorex thori). Given this unusual design, the hero shrews are able to sustain an immense amount of weight and force to their backbones, and it is thought that they use this feature to wedge themselves between the bark of a tree and its trunk to separate the two and get at insects and grubs.

My favorite part about this shrew and the excitement surrounding the published paper today is not only because of its extraordinary nature, but also because I had the opportunity to see the skeleton of one of these amazing creatures back in April when I visited The Field Museum. Bill Stanley - the Head of Collections - and his expedition team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are responsible for the new find. It was a complete honor to share in some of his enjoyment upon showing me an animal never before described in science, and was a highlight of my life to experience not only a completely fascinating creature in person but to also have the privilege of seeing it before it was revealed to the rest of the world. 

I highly encourage you to read the article about this new discovery in Scientific American, where I sourced the images.