Hispaniolan Solenodon
(Solenodon paradoxus)
Resembling an overgrown shrew, the ancestors of this West Indian insectivore diverged from all other living mammal groups an incredible 76 million years ago. It is one of only a few species of mammal capable of producing toxic saliva, which it injects into its prey through special grooves in its incisors. Before European colonisation of Hispaniola, the species was one of the dominant predators on the island. As a result it has never evolved any ‘anti-predator’ defences. A slow, clumsy mover, it is poorly equipped to defend itself against introduced predators such as dogs, cats and mongooses.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Further studies into distribution, abundance and ecology, and the impact of habitat destruction and introduced competitors and predators.
Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic).
Associated Blog Posts
9th Aug 12
Since 2009, Dr José Nuñez-Miño has been the field project leader for the Last Survivors Project, raising awareness and conducting conservation actions for...  Read

6th Jun 12
We owe all of you a huge apology since it has been over two months since our last blog update. The whole team has been so rushed off our feet that we have no...  Read

9th May 12
Pedro Martinez is a biologist who works for the Last Survivors Project in the Dominican Republic which aims to conserve EDGE species such as the Hispaniolan ...  Read

6th Apr 12
Two months have passed since the last blog and we have been extremely busy during this time. We had a great opportunity to increase conservation capaci...  Read

30th Mar 12
Piercing through the dark fog of pessimistic predictions for conservation’s future, rays of hope are appearing, in the guise of newly discovered species or...  Read

2nd Feb 12
I am convinced that time is speeding up; the last few weeks have absolutely flown by. Our main focus since our last blog has been field work. The whole team ...  Read

22nd Dec 11
End of the year on the Last Survivors project... As we approach the end of 2011 its time to once again reflect on the year and look forward to the year ah...  Read

24th Nov 11
Where have the last two months gone? They seem to have flown past and the lead up to Christmas is upon us. We have, as always, been very busy on all fronts o...  Read

5th Oct 11
So much has happened since our last posting that I have no idea if I’ll be able to cram it all into a reasonable length blog. One of the main highlights of...  Read

26th Aug 11
After visiting friends and family back in the United Kingdom I am now back in the sunny Caribbean. Actually it’s not been that sunny since we are at the st...  Read

12th Jul 11
The Hispaniolan Solenodon is not only one of the most evolutionarily distinct and threatened mammals in the world; but also, one of the few poisonous ones. I...  Read

20th Apr 11
An update from Joe Nunez on the progress of the Last Survivors project which is raising awareness of the Hispaniolan solenodon and hutia in the Dominican Rep...  Read

22nd Feb 11
This is an update from Joe Nunez on the Last Survivors project. It's been far too long since our last blog but then we have been incredibly busy on all fron...  Read

29th Dec 10
As 2010 comes to a close, Jose Nunez-Mino has written a summary of the excellent work he and his team have achieved this year in the Dominican Republic o...  Read

26th Nov 10
Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino has sent an update on the progress of The Last Survivors project in the Dominican Republic and its work to enable the long term conservat...  Read

30th Sep 10
Hello! My name is Dr Becky Coe, I have been working for ZSL London Zoo as an Education Officer for the past three and a half years – and finally seized an ...  Read

17th Jun 10
I don’t know how but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) figured out that it is my birthday today (17th June) and I suspect that'...  Read

2nd Jun 10
We were not expecting to write another blog until mid June but there is lots of exciting news that we want to share with you and so it warrants this special ...  Read

11th May 10
Back in the UK you have been experiencing the arrival of spring, here on the Island of Hispaniola we are still waiting for our next season to start in earnes...  Read

14th Apr 10
JOE NUNEZ: As always, we have been pretty busy since our last blog posting. Pedro will tell you all about our latest rounds of field work but first I want to...  Read

8th Mar 10
I simply can’t write this blog without mentioning the devastating earthquake that hit Hispaniola on the 12 of January 2010; it was felt throughout the isla...  Read

3rd Mar 10
A partnership of UK conservation organisations – BirdLife International, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society of London's EDG...  Read

30th Dec 09
It has been over a month since my last update so I thought it was time to bring you up to date with everything that has been happening. The last few weeks...  Read

28th Oct 09
The EDGE Team has just received its first blog from Jose Nuñez-Miño, Project Manager for the new UK Darwin Initiative funded Hispaniolan Endemic Land Mamma...  Read

24th Mar 09
Osé is an EDGE Fellow working on conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon in Haiti. Here he reports on the findings from his EDGE Fellowship fieldwork in t...  Read

25th Feb 09
A three-year conservation project for Hispaniola’s native mammals has just received large-scale support from the UK-based Darwin Initiative, a scheme which...  Read

9th Jan 09
The Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus), a top EDGE species, is one of the world’s weirdest mammals. The two living solenodon species diverged fr...  Read

21st Jul 08
Osé is an EDGE Fellow working on conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon in the Massif de la Hotte, Haiti. Here he reports on some of his findings from re...  Read

19th Feb 08
We are thrilled to introduce our latest EDGE Fellow from Haiti- Osé Pauléus. He will be working to conserve Hispaniolan solenodons and their habitats in ...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Solenodontidae
Genetic studies have revealed that the solenodons diverged from all other living mammals during the Cretaceous Period, an incredible 76 million years ago. This separation occurred at least as long ago as the branching of many entire mammalian orders (e.g. pangolins versus carnivores, or manatees versus elephants).

Fossil evidence shows that solenodon-like insectivores existed in North America 30 million years ago. They are thought to have originated from North American insectivores that colonised the Greater Antilles by overwater dispersal from Central America or the southeastern United States.

There are only two species of solenodon alive today, the Cuban solendon (S. cubanus) and the Hispaniolan solenodon (S. paradoxus). Two additional species, S. arredondoi and S. marcanoi, are known only from skeletal remains collected from western Cuba and southwestern Hispaniola respectively.

The two living solenodon species are believed to have diverged around 25 million years ago, when northern Hispaniola separated from eastern Cuba. This separation is comparable to the divergence between distinct mammalian families, for example, dolphins versus whales (30 Myr ago), or humans versus Old World monkeys (23 Myr ago). On this basis some researchers argue that the two species should be placed in different genera, with the Cuban solenodon being placed in a distinct genus, Atopogale.

The solenodon population in Haiti and the southern Dominican Republic may represent a distinct species, and has already been classified as the separate subspecies S. paradoxus woodi.
Head and body length: approx. 280-390 mm
Tail length: approx. 175-255 mm
Weight: 1 kg
The Haitian solenodon is roughly the same size as a large brown rat, although its relatively large head and long cartilaginous snout give it a shrew-like appearance. The majority of the animal’s body is covered with black to reddish-brown fur, which is paler on the underside. The nose, ears, feet and thick, scaly tail are almost hairless. The eyes are very small and the vision is underdeveloped, although the species has very good senses of smell and hearing. The forelimbs are larger and more developed that the hindlimbs, but all the feet have powerful claws for digging.
The species is nocturnal and finds shelter during the day by burrowing or hiding in hollow logs or crevices. Classed as an insectivore, the solenodon feeds mostly on spiders and insects found in the soil, although the diet may be supplemented with worms, snails and occasional plant material. The solenodon is one of the few species of mammal that can produce toxic saliva (along with some species of shrew). A special groove in the second incisor carries the venom to its prey.

The reproductive rate of this species is low, with females producing two litters containing 1-3 offspring per year. The young stay with their parents for several months, while other offspring are born and raised. The lifespan of wild solenodons is thought to be relatively long, as one individual survived for more than eleven years in captivity.
Found in forests and brush country.
Endemic to the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). S. paradoxus paradoxus occurs in northern Hispaniola. S. p. woodi occurs in the south of the island, in the Sierra de Baoruco-Jaragua region of the southwest Dominican Republic, and also as an isolated population in the Massif de la Hotte region of Haiti.
Population Estimate
No current estimates.
Classified as Endangered (EN B2ab(iii,v))  on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The main threats are habitat loss due to increasing human activity and deforestation, and the introduction of exotic predators, such as dogs, cats and mongooses. Since the species had no natural predators before European colonisation of Hispaniola, and is a slow clumsy mover, it does not possess many defences against introduced animals.
Conservation Underway

The species is fully protected by law. However, national parks in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are threatened by deforestation and encroachment for farming and charcoal production. The US Agency for International Development and the Nature Conservancy are currently working with local non-governmental organisations to improve protection and implement management plans for these parks (Parks in Peril programme). A Recovery Plan for the isolated Haitian population published in 1992 advocated comprehensive surveys, improved management of the National Park Pic Macaya, education campaigns, control of exotic mammals, and an ex situ breeding programmes. These recommendations have not yet been implemented.

Two Darwin Initiative-funded conservation research and education programmes have recently been established focusing on solenodons in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti: "Building evidence and capacity to conserve Hispaniola's endemic land mammals" (started 2009), and "Building a future for Haiti's unique vertebrates" (started 2010). These collaborative projects represent a partnership between the EDGE programme, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, BirdLife International, the Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic National Zoo, Societe Audubon Haiti, and in-country project partners.


This project supports in-country EDGE Fellows to help conserve relevant EDGE species

Led by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the project collaboration comprises the Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola, the Zoological Society of London, the Parque Zoologico Nacional (ZooDom), and the Ministerio de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de Republica Dominica. The project started in October 2009 and its purpose is to enable the long-term conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon and hutia through participatory species action planning, a strengthened evidence-base, an island-wide monitoring programme, and improved awareness. Among the many outputs will be a range of scientific publications, including maps of species distribution and priority conservation zones, and evidence-based Species Action Plans.

Conservation Proposed
Solenodons are among the few native land mammals that have survived human settlement of the islands of the West Indies. In order to develop effective conservation strategies to ensure their survival, it is necessary to understand why almost all the region’s other mammals have already died out. Further studies need to be conducted into the distribution, abundance and ecology of the species across Hispaniola. In particular, the relative impacts of habitat destruction, introduced predators and competitors (in particular feral dogs and mongoose), and deliberate and accidental human-caused mortality (e.g. poison baiting) need to be further assessed. Wide-scale education and awareness-raising campaigns and better protection of remaining forests are also required.
Associated EDGE Community members

I am the field project manager for the Last survivors project, details at: www.thelastsurvivors.org

Researching Hispaniolan Solenodon and Hutia ecology in the Dominican Republic

Research Assistant on The Last Survivors Project

Zoo population
Three male solenodon individuals are currently kept at the National Zoo in Santo Domingo.
Roca, A. L., Bar-Gal, G. K., Eizirik, E., Helgen, K. M., Maria, R., Springer, M. S., O’Brien, S. J., & Murphy, W. J. 2004. Mezozoic origin for West Indian insectivores. Nature 429: 649-651.

Turvey, S. & Incháustegui, S. 2008. Solenodon paradoxus. In: IUCN 2010. 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2010.4. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.

Turvey, S. T., Meredith, H. M. R., & Scofield, R. P. 2008. Continued survival of Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) in Haiti. Oryx 42: 611-614.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

Forum comments
  1. Anonymous

    It's so sad that they are endangered!! :(

    Posted 8 years ago #

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