Nimba otter shrew

The Nimba otter shrew (Micropotamogale lamottei) is a dwarf otter shrew and belongs to the mammal family Potamogalidae. Otter shrews are shrew-like afrotherian mammals found in sub-Saharan Africa. They are most closely related to the tenrecs of Madagascar.[2] This species belongs to the genus Micropotamogale, literally meaning "tiny river weasel". It is native to the Mount Nimba area which rests along the border of Liberia, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa.

Nimba otter shrew
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Afrosoricida
Suborder: Tenrecomorpha
Family: Potamogalidae
Genus: Micropotamogale
M. lamottei
Binomial name
Micropotamogale lamottei
Nimba Otter Shrew area.png
Nimba otter shrew range


The Nimba otter shrew is a small bodied mammal. Weighing only about 125 grams (4.5 ounces) it has a body length of 6-9 inches(15–22 cm.) with 1/4 to 1/3 of its body size being its tail. It has been described as a "miniature sea otter with a rat tail".[3] Its pelage is long, hiding its ears and eyes, and almost always universally colored (usually brown, but black and gray otter shrews have been spotted).[4]

Evolution and life historyEdit

The Nimba otter shrew is classified as a member of Potamogalidae, which is related to with afrotherian tenrecs, based on morphological structures. Molecular data also support the relationship.[5] Unfortunately, due to heavy mining operations for iron ore in the Mount Nimba area, the fossil record is all but destroyed. It is also difficult for scientists to gain access because the mountain crosses the borders of three different countries.[6]

Ecology and behaviorEdit

The Nimba otter shrew is nocturnal and semiaquatic.[4] It resides in soft soils around creek beds and streams. It is a solitary creature and has only been seen with other shrews during mating seasons and when a mother is nursing newly born young.[7] The breeding pattern of the Nimba otter shrew is also unknown, but believed to be polygamous; as there have been no witnessed accounts of breeding in the wild and the Nimba otter shrew has not mated in captivity.[8]

Conservation statusEdit

The IUCN had listed the Nimba otter shrew as endangered in 1990, but in 2018 the status was changed to vulnerable.[1] The species is confined to an area less than 5,000 km² on Mount Nimba, which is currently fragmented due to mining and wetland rice agriculture. The mining operations also produce runoff into the creeks and streambeds that is highly toxic.[8] The current population is decreasing at a rate of 1 per 10 km² (almost 500 otter shrews per year).[1] Although an exact number is unknown at this time, there is believed to be less than 2500–3500 individuals in the wild; there are none in captivity.[9] At this rate the Nimba otter shrew will be extinct between 2017 and 2020.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Stephenson, P.J., Monadjem, A., Decher, J. & Phalan, B. 2018. Micropotamogale lamottei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T13393A111940150. Downloaded on 18 December 2018.
  2. ^ Everson, K. M.; Soarimalala, V.; Goodman, S. M.; Olson, L. E. (2016). "Multiple Loci and Complete Taxonomic Sampling Resolve the Phylogeny and Biogeographic History of Tenrecs (Mammalia: Tenrecidae) and Reveal Higher Speciation Rates in Madagascar's Humid Forests". Systematic Biology. 65 (5): 890–909. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syw034. PMID 27103169.
  3. ^ Kuhn, H (1971). "An Adult Female Micropotamogale lamottei". Journal of Mammalogy. 52 (2): 477–478. doi:10.2307/1378706. JSTOR 1378706.
  4. ^ a b Burnie, David; Wilson, Don E., eds. (2005-09-19). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife (1st paperback ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 104. ISBN 0-7566-1634-4.
  5. ^ van Dijk, M.O.; O. Madsen; F. Catzeflis; M. Stanhope; W. de Jong; M. Pagel (2011). "Protein sequence signatures support the African clade of mammals". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 98 (1): 188–193. doi:10.1073/pnas.250216797. PMC 14566. PMID 11114173.
  6. ^ Africa Confidential (July 2000). "Africa Confidential. Volume 41 Number 15. Published 21 July 2000". Africa Confidential. 41 (15): 1–8. doi:10.1111/1467-6338.00090.
  7. ^ Stephan, H; H. Kuhn (1954). "The Brain of Micropotamogale lamottei". Heim de Balsac. 47: 129–142.
  8. ^ a b Amori, G.; F. Chiozza; C. Rondinini; L. Luiselli (2011). "Country-based patterns of total species richness, endemicity, and threatened species richness in African rodents and insectivores". Biodiversity and Conservation. 20 (6): 1225–1237. doi:10.1007/s10531-011-0024-1.
  9. ^ "Redlist assessment information". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN.
  10. ^ Amori, G.; Masciola, S.; Saarto, J.; Gippoliti, S.; Rondinini, C.; Chiozza, F.; Luiselli, L. (2012). "Spatial turnover and knowledge gap of African small mammals: Using country checklists as a conservation tool". Biodiversity and Conservation. 21 (7): 1755–1793. doi:10.1007/s10531-012-0275-5.