Tree-shrew

Tupaia spp

Fact titleFact data
Super powers
Brains and agility
Favourite food
Fruit
Characteristics
Good memory, active, alert, neurotic

In this story we follow a young tree-shrew. At almost 6 weeks old this female is about to take her first tentative steps out of the nest and step into the humid tropical rainforests of Borneo.

She is a ‘free runner’ of the rainforest, agile and fast moving when navigating the tree tops
Hidden Kingdoms

Found across the tropical forests of southeast Asia, southern China, and India, neither shrew nor squirrel, this young tree-shrew is closely related to primates, bats and flying lemurs.

Predominantly arboreal, she is a ‘free runner’ of the rainforest, agile and fast moving when navigating the tree tops; she must descend to the forest floor to forage. As a diurnal (daytime) mammal with an omnivorous diet, she can consume invertebrate prey but her favourite food is fruit, spending much of the day around a fruiting tree feeding there.

Tree-shrews share an unusual nutritional relationship with pitcher-plants; and feed on ‘nectar’ produced by glands on the inner surface of the plant’s lid and in return almost immediately defecate into the pitcher, supplying the plant with a nitrogen fix.

Nests in tree hollows are used for sleeping as well as rearing young. When born, the helpless infants are left almost entirely alone and in a separate nest to their mother, interactions between the two are infrequent. This absentee parenting system keeps means young tree-shrews are fed only once every two days. During each visit the infants can consume nearly one-third of their body weight in nutrient rich milk.

In total, the mother will spend as little as between 25 minutes to 2 hours with her young during the first 4 weeks of their lives.

While this behaviour may seem uncaring, the reason is simple – tree-shrews are rather pungent. To avoid leaving a lingering body odour and thus scent trail leading to her young, the mother varies the pathways and routes she takes when entering or leaving the nest to keep predators off the scent. Surprisingly, by spending as little time with them as possible she is providing them with the best opportunity to survive to adulthood.

With a small body size, high heart rate, and short digestive tract this small mammal has a high metabolic rate. The young female must eat frequently to maintain her body’s energy demands. So, she can spend as many as 11 hours per day foraging.

In this story, unbeknown to the young female, while traversing the heights of the forests canopy, she is being followed by a deadly adversary. She must shake off this predator and keep on track to find her next meal before she succumbs to her hunger.

Clips