Lowland_Streaked_Tenrec,_Mantadia,_Madagascar - Photo by Frank Vassen
Lowland streaked tenrec. Image: Frank Vassen.

Deep in the tropical lowland forests of northern and eastern Madagascar, a truly bizarre critter trundles through the undergrowth.

With an elongated snout and bright yellow and black quills covering its body, this mammal resembles a cross between a shrew and a porcupine. Meet the lowland streaked tenrec.

Like porcupines, lowland streaked tenrecs can shed and jab their quills into their attackers when threatened.

Lowland_Streaked_Tenrec,_Masoala_National_Park,_Madagascar - Photo by Frank Vassen
Image: Frank Vassen.

These unique animals can also use their quills to create noise. By rubbing together the non-barbed quills on the middle of their back, they can produce faint chattering sounds to communicate with family groups. This behavior is known as stridulation and is unique to lowland streaked tenrecs — they’re the only mammal known to use this method to generate sound!

Despite their spiky exterior, these animals enjoy the company of family. Tenrecs are heavily reliant on their groups, and they live in burrows of up to 20 other individuals.

They’re small but mighty! These peculiar creatures are tiny, measuring only 6 to 7 inches fully grown and weighing less than half a pound.

While lowland streaked tenrecs and other tenrecs share physical and behavioral characteristics with shrews, moles, porcupines, hedgehogs, opossums, and even otters, they couldn’t be more different. Tenrecs are in a family all their own called Tenrecidae. Their closest relatives? Golden moles.