Shrews: Smart Enough to Shrink Their Skulls

Shrews: Smart Enough to Shrink Their Skulls

Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis

How an unassuming mouse such as the shrew came to be the defining symbol for an ill-tempered woman in Shakespeare’s play or the root of an old English word which literally means “evil person or thing” is unbeknownst to me. However, new research reveals that this small and mighty mammal actually has the ability to shrink its skull during winter months in order to survive. Due to the fact that the shrew needs to eat constantly in order to survive, having a smaller brain allows this incredible animal to save more energy. The intriguing aspect of this discovery for the research scientists is that they do not know “[to what extent] this is genetically programmed, and to which point this is influenced by environmental factors.” That is why it is so important for us, as humans, to pay attention to our natural environment, and to be a steward of it so that other species can have a rich, meaningful life.