Greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula)

Greater white-toothed shrew
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Greater white-toothed shrew fact file

Greater white-toothed shrew description

GenusCrocidura (1)

The greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) is one of the 'white-toothed shrews'; it lacks deposition of iron in the enamel of the tips of the teeth as seen in the red-toothed shrews (4). The upper surface of the body is greyish or reddish brown in colour; the underside becomes more of a yellowish grey, and there is no clear demarcation between the two (5). The tail is covered in long whisker-like (2) white hairs (5). Although generally larger in size, this species is very similar in appearance to the lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens) (2), so much so that the only truly reliable method to distinguish between the two species is by detailed examination of the teeth (5).

Crocidure Commune, Crocidure Musette.
Musaraña Gris.
Head & body length: 6-9 cm (2)
Tail length: 3-4.6 cm (2)
5.9-11.3 g (2)

Greater white-toothed shrew biology

This shrew alternates bouts of activity with rest (2) throughout both the day and night (5), but activity peaks at dusk and dawn (5). It feeds on a variety of invertebrates (2), and occasionally takes lizards and small rodents despite its small size (4). They nest under logs and stones or in burrows (2). The greater white-toothed shrew has a greater reproductive output than any of the British red-toothed shrews, producing four to five litters a year, each comprising of two to ten young (6). The young exhibit 'caravanning' behaviour (2); if the nest is disturbed, the female leads the young to a new nest site and the young follow her in a line, each one grasping the tail of the shrew in front by the tail (4). This species is much less aggressive than the red-toothed shrews. Females may even allow her mate to remain in the nest with the offspring, and will leave him with the young as she goes to forage. The male often crouches over the young to shelter them during the female's absence (4).


Greater white-toothed shrew range

This species is one of the commonest shrews in Eurasia (2). It has a broad distribution throughout western and southern Europe (6), including many Mediterranean islands (2), and also occurs in North Africa, (5). In the British Isles, the greater white-toothed shrew occurs on the Channel Islands of Alderney, Guernsey and Herm, where it is thought to have been introduced (4).


Greater white-toothed shrew habitat

The greater white-toothed shrew inhabits grassland, hedgerows and woodland, favouring dry ground. In the Channel Islands, it may also be found amongst rocks on the seashore and on grass-covered sand dunes (4). Although it typically occurs at altitudes below 1,000 metres, it has been found at 1,600 metres in the Alps (5). It often occurs close to man, living around outbuildings (5).


Greater white-toothed shrew status

The greater white-toothed shrew is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Protected under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Greater white-toothed shrew threats

The greater white-toothed shrew is not threatened at present, although like most shrews it is vulnerable to pesticide use, habitat loss and declines in prey availability (6).


Greater white-toothed shrew conservation

All shrews are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more on this species see: Shrews of the British Isles (1988), by Sara Churchfield (Shire Publishing Ltd).



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2012)
  2. Burton, J. A. (1991) Field guide to the mammals of Britain and Europe. Kingfisher Books, London.
  3. Morris, P. (1993) A red data book for British mammals. Mammal Society, Bristol.
  4. Churchfield, S (1988) Shrews of the British Isles. Shire Natural History, Shire Publications, Aylesbury.
  5. IUCN Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group (ITSES) (August 2002):
  6. Macdonnald, D. W. & Tattersall, F. T. (2001) Britain's mammals- the challenge for conservation. The Wildlife Conservation research Unit, Oxford University.

Image credit

Greater white-toothed shrew  
Greater white-toothed shrew

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