Possessing an extremely high metabolism (3), shrews have to feed every two to three hours in order to meet the demands of this high energy requirement, and often eat more than their body weight in food every day (7). With a diet consisting mainly of invertebrates, such as insects and spiders (3), shrews frantically search for food both day and night, or else they can die of starvation in as little as four hours (3) (7). Shrews also perform the unusual practice of licking their rectums (the final part of the large intestine where the faeces are stored) to ensure that they obtain all the possible nutrients from their food which would otherwise be lost in the faeces (3). Another consequence of a shrew’s high metabolism and resultant active lifestyle is a rather short life span (3) (7); shrews rarely live longer than a year, making them the shortest lived mammals in the world (7). Shrews scare extremely easily, and when startled their heart rate can reach up to 1,200 beats per minute (4) which is over 16 times faster than the normal human heart rate. Shrews may also be so frightened by loud noises, such as thunder, that some individuals die of shock (4).
If shrew families have to move before the young are fully grown they do so by ‘caravanning’ (4) (7), whereby the immature shrews form a line behind the mother, with each one holding onto the hind end of the one in front with its teeth. The grip between individuals in the chain is so strong that if the mother is lifted off the ground then all of the family are lifted up too (7). Although thought to suffer relatively little predation because of noxious glands in the skin which make the flesh distasteful (3), Flower’s shrew may be preyed upon by some birds, such as the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) (3).