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  • Common Pygmy Shrew

Common nameCommon Pygmy Shrew
Scientific nameSorex minutus
Irish nameDallóg fhraoigh

Ireland Red List No. 3: Terrestrial Mammals found the pygmy shrew to be of least concern (Marnell, et al. 2009).

Pygmy shrews are one of the world's smallest mammals, weighing just 3-6g as adults. They are roughly the same size as the distal phalange of your thumb. They have a narrow, pointed, flexible snout, with long whiskers and very small eyes. Their sharp teeth have red tips (unlike the white teeth of the greater white-toothed shrew).

Pygmy shrew are found in a variety of habitats, particularly where there is sufficient ground cover. It is particularly common in woodland (in the absence of common shrews Sorex araneus) in Ireland, but is also common on grassland and have been recorded in urban parks and blanket bogs. Pygmy shrews have a voracious appetite and high dietary requirements, so they will venture wherever their invertebrate food is found.

Pygmy shrews can live to 13-16 months but typically their lives are much shorter. They are extremely territorial animals, only tolerating one another's company briefly during the breeding season and even then it is only female-male encounters, and only for the duration of copulation. Densities can reach up to 42 per hectare in suitable habitat, and an Irish population of 3.15 million has been estimated, extrapolated from British numbers. This may be an under-estimate due to competitive release from the common shrew (present in Britain but not Ireland).

There is evidence that pygmy shrews have been affected by the introduction of the greater white toothed shrew, as pygmy shrew appears to have disappeared from areas where its larger relation has colonised. There is urgent need for more research to determine the ecological interaction between both species in Ireland.

Widely distributed though the Palaearctic, across the whole of Europe except for parts of the Mediterranean regions and eastwards through Serbia to Lake Baikal (Harris & Yalden, 1991). 20,344 records of this species are mapped on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility data portal, but the distribution map is incomplete as the Russian Federation is not a member of GBIF.

The pygmy shrew is common and widespread throughout suitable habitat in Ireland. There are currently 755 records of pygmy shrew on Biodiversity Maps Biodiversity Maps, but please note that the current distribution map does not reflect the full distribution of the species in Ireland.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of the Pygmy Shrew in Ireland. Should you observe Pygmy Shrews please submit sighting to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into the range and status of the Pygmy Shrew in Ireland. If you are uncertain please attach a photograph for validation. Please submit any sightings and photographs. All records submitted on line can be viewed on Google Maps below – once checked and validated these will be added to the national database and made available for conservation and research.

Please submit any sightings by clicking on the "Submit" button.

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

  • Harris, S. & Yalden, D. (1991) Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th Edition. The Mammal Society, Southampton.
  • Marnell, F., Kingston, N. & Looney, D. (2009) Ireland Red List No. 3: Terrestrial Mammals. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght (llysaght@biodiversityireland.ie).