The two living species in this family are the Cuban solenodon (suh-LEN-uh-dun), which is also known as the almiqui (ahl-mee-KEE), and the Hispaniolan solenodon, which is sometimes called the Haitian solenodon. Both have extremely long snouts that extend beyond the end of their lower jaw.
Their four relatively tall legs, clawed feet, and long tails are nearly hairless. Most are brown on the back, or sometimes black in the Cuban solenodon, and have lighter-colored fur on their undersides. Cuban solenodons have longer, coarser, back hair, giving it a shaggier appearance. They are also slightly smaller than Hispaniolan solenodons. Overall, adult solenodons range from about 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) in length, and their tail adds another 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters). Adults weigh 1.3 to 2.4 pounds (0.6 to 1.1 kilograms).
Both species have glands under their front teeth that produce poison. When they bite into a prey animal, the poison flows from the glands down grooves in their teeth and into the prey.
Solenodons live in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. In the past they were also found in Puerto Rico.
Solenodons occupy tropical forests on the sides of mountains, and also can be found in plantations and other flat, brushy areas.
Solenodons spend most of their nighttime hours above ground, poking their long snouts into the dirt and any other little opening they can find to search for insects, spiders, earthworms, and other invertebrates, animals without backbones. They will also claw apart old, rotten logs where many of their prey live.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Like most other insectivores, solenodons rest during the day and become active at night. They usually spend their days in small groups within burrows or shallow hollows in
the ground, but may also rest in small hiding places. They spread out at night to look for food alone, and will attack fellow solenodons that get too close, often inflicting nasty bites. If a predator approaches, the solenodon has the option of charging and biting, or running off. Unless it is startled or has nowhere to flee, it will usually choose running over fighting.
Solenodons make a number of noises, including shrieks, grunts, and clicks. Some scientists believe the clicks may help them find prey. Just as bats make high-pitched noises and listen as the noises bounce off objects and back to them, solenodons may listen for the bounced clicks to detect objects, like prey, in their surroundings. This ability to “see” objects with reflected sound waves is called echolocation (eck-oh-lohKAY-shun).
Males and females can breed at any time of year, and females usually have two litters (young born at the same time) every year.
A mother may have one, two, or three babies at a time. Mothers nurse their young with two nipples located toward the rear of the animal, which are farther back than on a typical mammal.
The babies continue nursing for about seventy-five days, but often stay with their mother until well after the next litter is born.
SOLENODONS AND PEOPLE
Solenodons and people usually do not see one another, unless the solenodon makes its home in a plantation or garden. Homeowners and farmers sometimes view them as pests because they occasionally damage crops while rooting around in the dirt for insects and other prey that live near plants.
According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) both species are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also list these two species as Endangered. The causes for their decline include hunting by dogs and cats, and the removal of the forests where the solenodons live. The IUCN lists a third species, Marcano’s solenodon, as extinct.