The Naming of The Shrew – Greater White-toothed Shrew Now Discovered in Britain - The Mammal Society

A new species of non-native mammal for mainland Britain has been discovered in Sunderland in North-East England. In 2021 an unusual photo of a dead shrew was posted by Melissa Young on social media caught ecologist Ian Bond’s eye. Ian reached out to Melissa, pointing out that it looked rather like a White-toothed shrew.

Ian Bond explains ‘White-toothed Shrews look fairly distinctive with a head more closely resembling Finger Mouse or the Clangers than a normal shrew. The problem with that identification was that they have never occurred on the British mainland before!’

Following contact with Ian, Melissa kept the suspected shrew in her freezer so further tests could be undertaken. A subsequent DNA test, undertaken by Ecotype Genetics and Swift Ecology Ltd, confirmed it to be the Greater White Toothed Shrew. In Britain this mammal is only found on the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney, although it is found on the other side of the Channel as far north as the Netherlands.

The Mammal Society’s Allan McDevitt comments ‘Given the rapid spread of the greater white-toothed shrew in Ireland, it is no surprise that it has eventually found its way to mainland Great Britain. This is a worrying development however as this invasive shrew is clearly associated with the local disappearance of the native pygmy shrew in Ireland. It is known to outcompete other species of shrews on other islands, so it is urgent that its distribution and potential impacts on other shrew species is quickly assessed.’

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Posted On: 27/10/2022

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