What Is the Smallest Living Mammal?

Isn’t it adorable to see little animals as babies? Think about it. Small puppies with endless energy…tiny kittens with soft fur…small bunnies with twitching noses…they’re all so cute!

However, bunnies, kittens, and puppies usually grow up to be much larger animals as adults. Are there any animals that stay small throughout their lives? You might be wondering which is the smallest mammal in the world.

You’ll need to keep a close eye out to spot the tiny creatures that compete for the title of the smallest mammal on Earth. They are very small, but they probably won’t replace kittens, puppies, and bunnies on your list of potential pets.

There are actually two mammals that can claim to be the world’s smallest mammal. The winner depends on how you define “smallest.” One of the animals weighs the least of all mammals, while the other is the shortest mammal on Earth.

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) takes the title for the lightest mammal, weighing only two grams or less. How small is that? It’s less than the weight of a dime! Wow! That is tiny!

These tiny creatures generally grow to a length of about 2.3 inches. Even though they are small, they have very big appetites. Etruscan shrews regularly consume twice their own body weight every day.

The Etruscan shrew is just one of the many species of shrews found all around the world. The Etruscan shrew is the smallest type, but all shrews tend to be very small. Some even have venomous saliva that helps them immobilize their prey to satisfy their large appetites!

If you’re wondering why such a small creature has such a big appetite, it probably has to do with their fast metabolism. Their tiny hearts beat at an astonishing rate of 25 beats per second. That’s about 1,500 beats per minute. In comparison, the average human heart beats at an average rate of 72 beats per minute!

The Etruscan shrew shares the title of the world’s smallest mammal with an interesting creature from Thailand: Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai), also known as the bumblebee bat. It gets its nickname from its size, which is a little over an inch long, making it about the same size as a large bumblebee!

Thai zoologist Kitti Thonglongya discovered the bumblebee bat in 1973. It gets the name “hog-nosed” because its nose is pink and shaped like a pig’s snout. These tiny bats, although shorter than the Etruscan shrew, generally weigh slightly more than two grams.

Bumblebee bats usually live in groups of 100 or more in the limestone caves of Thailand. They have also been found in Myanmar.

Can you imagine what it would be like to come across a swarm of these tiny bats? What do you think? Would you like to have an Etruscan shrew or a bumblebee bat as a pet?

Try It Out

The topic of today’s Wonder of the Day may be small, but the Wonder itself offers a lot of learning! Keep the momentum going by trying one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Are you interested in Kitti’s hog-nosed bat? We are! Why not acquire more knowledge about this intriguing creature? Go online and read The Flight of the Bumblebee Bat. You will discover more about its habitat and the unfortunate decline in its population over the years.
  • After pondering about small creatures, you might be curious about the largest mammals on Earth. Let’s find out! Take a look at The 10 Largest Mammals online for a brief introduction to the largest and heaviest mammals in each mammal group. Did any of the listed mammals surprise you? Before reading the article, what were your assumptions about the largest mammals? Discuss your assumptions and how the information you learned either confirmed or challenged them.
  • Ready for a challenge? It may be difficult to imagine a living mammal that weighs less than three grams. Do you have a good understanding of how light that is? To gain a scientific perspective, conduct your own experiment. Find a scale that accurately measures in grams, which you may find in your kitchen or borrow from a friend. Gather a few coins and other objects from your kitchen to measure. Keep a record of these items and estimate their weights. Then weigh each object and record the actual results. How accurate were your estimates? If possible, create a graph of your results and discuss them with a friend or family member. Can you find an object that weighs approximately the same as a shrew or a bumblebee bat?

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