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Land mammals As all of the islands have formed without direct connections to the mainland, it is no surprise that the native mammal fauna of the islands is very limited .The original fauna of the Canaries included two species of giant rat, with body lengths of up to 1m, that were endemic to La Palma andTenerife respectively, but these appear to have become extinct rapidly after the islands were colonised by humans .The Lava Mouse, which was about twice the size of a House Mouse and had large eyes that suggest it was nocturnal, was also endemic to the Eastern Canaries . It appears to have lasted longer than the giant rats but is thought to have been preyed on by introduced dogs and outcompeted by the introduced House Mouse .The only remaining endemic land mammal is the rarely seen Canarian Shrew, which inhabits the arid lava fields of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura; two other species of shrew have been introduced toTenerife and Gran Canaria respectively . Lying further offshore than the Canaries, Madeira has no endemic land mammals, and there is no historical evidence to suggest that it ever did . However, a number of non-native mammal species have been introduced to both island groups over the years, including the familiar and destructive Brown and Black Rats, House Mouse and European Rabbit to all the larger islands, as well as Algerian Hedgehog to the Central and Eastern Canaries and Barbary Ground Squirrel to Fuerteventura . Mouflon and Barbary Sheep have been introduced toTenerife and La Palma respectively for hunting purposes, although both pose a serious threat to endemic plants, and the former is now the subject of a control programme . 2 European Rabbit L 38–58cm including tail of 4–8cm The familiar European Rabbit has been introduced to all the main islands of the Canaries and to Madeira, Porto Santo and the Desertas Islands. It first arrived on Porto Santo in 1418 and on the Canaries around the same time or perhaps even earlier. Its original range was in NW Africa and SW Europe, but it has been widely introduced elsewhere for food and now occurs on all continents except Antarctica, though it remains absent from sub-Saharan Africa. These rabbits are exclusively vegetarian, feeding entirely on leaves, buds, bark, roots and seeds and can be destructive grazers of natural habitats. On the islands, rabbits are largely crepuscular and spend much of the heat of the day hidden in burrows, which are placed in both natural and agricultural habitats from the coast to the highest peaks, but particularly in more vegetated areas. Rabbits are widely hunted on the islands; hunters use Canarian warren hounds to locate burrows and then employ a ferret to bring the rabbits out into the open to shoot. I Monk Seal | Rabbit 153 2 4 House Mouse L 12–20cm including tail of 5–10cm This widespread species is found on all the larger islands in the Canaries and on Madeira and Porto Santo. House Mice prefer man-made habitats, so are commonest in urban and agricultural areas, where they often live inside buildings, although they can also occur in most natural habitats. House Mice on Madeira have been shown to be evolving rapidly, and at least six different subspecies are developing through isolation in different parts of the island. Carbon dating shows that these mice have been on Madeira and the Canaries since around ad. 1036, when they may have arrived on Viking longships. Those on Gran Canaria have longer limbs than elsewhere, possibly an adaptation to living in steep volcanic terrain. House Mice vary from pale to dark brown above and can be paler below. They have a pointed snout, small rounded ears, dark eyes and a long, largely hairless tail. I 2 (Etruscan) PygmyWhite-toothed Shrew L 5–8cmincluding tail of 2–3cm This widespread shrew has been introduced to the Canaries from Eurasia and currently occurs only on Tenerife but may well spread to other islands. It is widespread on Tenerife, occurring on both sides of the island from the coast up to 2,000m. This tiny shrew is the lightest mammal in the world, with an average weight of 1.8 g. It is very active and has a very fast metabolism, with a heart rate of 25 beats per second! These shrews prefer moist bushy habitats with plenty of crevices, such as rocks, walls and ruins, as they are incapable of making burrows to live in. They feed mostly on insects up...


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