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tree shrew

tree shrew, small, arboreal mammal of the family Tupaiidae, found in S Asia. The 17 known species of tree shrews are classified as the order Tupaioidea or Scandentia. Tree shrews superficially resemble squirrels, and are commonly brown, gray, or olive in color. They have large eyes, good vision, and can use their clawed forepaws effectively for holding food. Tree shrews are territorial, omnivorous, and extremely active; they dart about constantly in the trees screaming and fighting with one another. The common tree shrew, Tupais glis, looks like a squirrel with an elongated, shrewlike snout. Its body is about 8 in. (20 cm) long, and it has a bushy tail about 6 in. (15 cm) long. It is found from India to Malaysia. The pen-tailed tree shrew, Ptilocercus lowi, of Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsula is the most distinctive tree shrew; it is a mouse-sized nocturnal animal, dark gray above and yellow below, with a naked, black tail bearing two fringes of white hair at the tip. Tree shrews bear some anatomical resemblance to both the true shrew, which is an insectivore, and to the lemur, which is a primate. Tree shrews are now seen as a possible model for early primate behavior. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Scandentia, family Tupaiidae.

See R. D. Martin, Primate Origins and Evolution (1990).

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Tupaiidae

Tupaiidae (tree shrews; cohort Unguiculata, order Insectivora or (more correctly) Scandentia) A family and order of small, generally arboreal, somewhat squirrel-like mammals, which show characteristics resembling those of primates, with which some authorities still classify them although it is now generally accepted that similarities to primates are illusory or convergent. The brain is relatively large, with a small olfactory region, a postorbital bar is present in some forms, the ears are small and rounded, the hallux is slightly opposable, and the digits bear claws. There are three lower incisors, procumbent and pressed together to form a lemur-like ‘dental comb’. The cheek teeth are primitive. Tree shrews feed on insects and fruit, and are distributed throughout India and south-east Asia. There are five genera, with about 15 species.

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tree shrew

tree shrew See TUPAIIDAE.

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