As a whole, the tenrecs comprise a family of mammals that are found in Madagascar and some parts of Africa. But even though the group only contains 34 species, they can be hard to define. Similar to the way that marsupials diversified to fill a variety of ecological niches in Australia and New Guinea, tenrecs vary widely in body form and occupy a range of habitats. Some species have adopted otter-like forms, while others resemble shrews and hedgehogs. Their closest relatives are the golden moles, although they are also related to the aardvark and elephant shrews.
Two species that are especially interesting are the Highland and Lowland Streaked Tenrecs, which fall within the hedgehog body type and are armed with barbed quills. Both are native to Madagascar, and similar to many other small insectivores, they primarily feed on earthworms and take shelter in underground burrows.
The most interesting feature of the Streaked Tenrecs, though, is that they are the only mammals known to communicate using stridulation, a type of communication that is generally associated with insects and snakes. Although they lack wings and scales, they are still able to accomplish this using a specialized type of quill that is arranged in rows along their back. Click here to see an amazing video.
Even though tenrecs are sometimes hunted for food, the IUCN reports that the species are thriving and seem to be affected little by human disturbance. You can learn more about Lowland Streaked Tenrecs here.
An earlier version of this post first appeared on one of my older blogs.