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One of world's smallest mammals found alive in Hokkaido.

TOKYO, May 28 Kyodo A Hawker's least shrew, one of the world's smallest mammals, has been captured alive in the Sarobetsu Plain in Japan's northernmost island prefecture of Hokkaido, a scientist said Friday.

The endangered shrew, 4.5 centimeters long minus its tail and weighing less than 2 grams, was found May 17 in a trap by crew members of Ortus Japan Ltd., a Tokyo-based TV production company, and zoologist Tadaaki Imaizumi, who were shooting a video on the northern Hokkaido swamps.

Little is known about the shrew's habitat except that it is found only in Hokkaido, living in bogs or small gaps on the forest floor and feeding on insects. While more of a mole than a true rodent, this animal is a Japanese subspecies of a small shrew found in Siberia.

The shrew has the scientific name Sorex minutissimus hawkeri after a British naturalist named Hawker who found it in the early 1900s. However, it is called "Tokyo shrew" in Japanese because he reportedly mistook "Ezo," an old name for Hokkaido, for "Edo," the name of Tokyo until 1868.

Imaizumi unveiled pictures of the shrew for the first time in a news conference Friday, with its distinctive long snout and sides covered with silvery fur.

The shrew, which is described in an Environment Agency red list as being "in great danger of extinction in the near future," is said to possess a fast metabolism -- feeding, sleeping and feeding again in a 30-minute cycle, Imaizumi told reporters.

He also said there is a need to preserve the swampy habitat where the shrews live in the wake of the ongoing desiccation of the 150-square-kilometer Sarobetsu Plain, which consists of the floodplains of the Teshio and Sarobetsu rivers.
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Publication:Japan Science Scan
Date:May 31, 1999
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