A new species of hero shrew, recently found in Africa, is now known to be one of the strongest, sturdiest mammals in the animal kingdom.
The shrew, Scutisorex thori, measures less than a foot long and weighs only 1.7 ounces, and yet it can lift heavy logs. The appropriately named new “hero,” found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and described in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters, can also often survive attempted squishing.
Lead author William Stanley, of the Field Museum of Natural History, explained to Discovery News that locals used to demonstrate the sturdiness of these tiny mammals to scientists. When researchers first documented the genus back in the early 1900s, locals immediately recognized the furry shrew.
“'Oh, that’s the hero shrew,' they said,” Stanley explained. “'We use it as a talisman. It renders us invincible to bullets and spears.'”
“At that point,” Stanley continued, “one of the men stood on the tiny mammal for 5 minutes. The shrew walked away unscathed.”
The new shrew, which sports thick, dark hair, appears to be just as strong.
Stanley and his team collected some of the mammals near the village of Baleko in the Congo. Detailed analysis of their body structure revealed that they are similar, yet distinctly different, from the other known hero shrew, Scutisorex somereni.
The most noteworthy feature that the shrews share in common is their unique spine.
“It’s massively reinforced, resulting in tremendous strength,” Stanley said.