Thor's Hero Shrew

A new species of hero shrew was found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012 and given the awesome name Thor's hero shrew (Scutisorex thori). How does such a tiny animal deserve such a heroic name? Hero shrews have a superpower -the strongest backbone of any mammal on earth!

Between our rib cage and pelvis, we have five specialised vertebrae called lumbar vertebrae. Allen found that the African hero shrew can have up to 11 lumbar vertebrae, and each is fortified by a unique interlocking arrangement that makes the entire backbone super-strong. This was no news to the locals that lived alongside the species – the Mangbetu people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) named it “hero shrew” long before it was given its scientific name.

In fact, the Mangbetu would show off a parlor trick in which a grown man would stand on a hero shrew and then watch it walk away uninjured. The newly-found hero shrew is the second species of hero shrew, and is even smaller than its cousin. Scientists aren't sure, but think the strong backbone may help the shrew pull tree parts apart to find grubs to eat. Link -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: William Stanley)

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