Research project: The taxonomy of the Christmas Island shrew


Start date:

Museum investigators

External investigators

  • Paul Meek, University of New England

Funded by

  • Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA)


The Christmas Island shrew Crocidura attenuata trichura is the only member of the eutherian family Soricidae recorded from Australia. It is currently classified as an endemic island subspecies of the Asian gray or long-tailed shrew C. attenuata, although it was originally regarded as a 'variety' of the South-East Asian white-toothed shrew C. fuliginosa.

The Christmas Island shrew is currently listed as 'endangered' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) and has not been recorded in the wild for several decades. In 1899 when the species was widespread and abundant on Christmas Island, a series of specimens was collected and lodged with the Natural History Museum in London. Subsequently, the species was found to have declined dramatically and was considered extinct by 1908.

In 1985, however, specimens of two shrews were collected on Christmas Island and lodged with the West Australian Museum. It is unclear whether the 1985 specimens represent the same taxon as the 1899 specimens or a recent introduction from Asia.

In this study we aim to obtain DNA sequence data from available museum specimens of the Christmas Island shrew to determine its taxonomic affinities and to resolve the identity of the 1985 specimens.

Dr Mark Eldridge , Principal Research Scientist
Dr Rebecca Johnson , Director, Australian Museum Research Institute
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