Sorex pribilofensis - Merriam, 1895
Pribilof Island Shrew
Synonym(s): Sorex hydrodromus Dobson, 1889
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Sorex pribilofensis Merriam, 1895 (TSN 179930)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105182
Element Code: AMABA01040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Other Mammals
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Soricomorpha Soricidae Sorex
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Sorex pribilofensis
Taxonomic Comments: Van Zyll de Jong (1982) questioned use of the name hydrodromus for this species; the type specimen for hydrodromus does not appear to conform morphologically to the samples of shrews from the Pribilofs. Rausch and Rausch (1997) determined that the correct name for the Pribilof Island shrew should be S. pribilofensis rather than S. hydrodromus. Jones et al. (1997) and Baker et al. (2003) adopted this change. Hutterer (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) used the name Sorex pribilofensis.

Demboski and Cook (2003) used DNA sequence data to examine phylogenetic relationships among 8 members of the Sorex cinereus group (S. camtschatica, S. cinereus, S. haydeni, S. jacksoni, S. portenkoi, S. preblei, S. pribilofensis, and S. ugyunak) and S. longirostris. Phylogenetic analyses recovered two major clades within the species group: a northern clade that includes the Beringian species (S. camtschatica, S. jacksoni, S. portenkoi, S. pribilofensis, and S. ugyunak), S. haydeni, and S. preblei and a southern clade that includes S. cinereus and S. longirostris. Mitochondrial DNA clades generally corresponded to previously identified morphological groups with two exceptions: inclusion of S. longirostris with S. cinereus in the southern clade and inclusion of S. preblei within the northern clade.

See George (1988) for an electrophoretic study of systematic relationships among Sorex species.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Jan2008
Global Status Last Changed: 03Dec1999
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Small range is confined to St. Paul Island, Alaska; abundant and widely distributed, population presumably stable; no immediate threats to the species or to the majority of the habitat.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (21Apr2006)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S3)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The known geographic range is confined to St. Paul Island (90 sq km), Pribilof Islands, Alaska. The species is distributed primarily along the periphery of the island. Plant associations supporting shrews in summer occupied nearly 40 sq km in the late 1980s (Byrd and Norvell 1993). No shrews have been collected on neighboring St. George and Otter islands, despite numerous surveys (Preble and McAtee 1923, Byrd and Norvell 1988, 1993).

Type locality was reported as "Unalaska Islands, Aleutian Islands." However, attempts to collect shrews from the type locality have not been successful. Presumably the shrews, to which the name hydrodromus has been applied, were collected on St. Paul Island of the Pribilof Islands.

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: One occurrence; known to occur only on St. Paul Island.

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Abundance unknown, but total population size is probably more than 10,000 individuals. Jackson (1928) described the Pribilof shrew as "not common" in 1928. Fay and Sease (1985) found them to be abundant in 1965. The highest capture rate was recorded at Zapadni Reef (Byrd and Mendenhall 1986). Byrd and Norvell (1988, 1993) reported capture rates of 0.9 to 4.5 shrews/1000 trap hours over an area of approximately 39 sq km, no estimates of density were provided; they indicated that abundance was highest in the eastern and southern portions of the island. Similar trap efforts for Sorex cinereus, a closely related species with similar habitat requirements, resulted in density estimates of 2 to 30 shrews per acre depending on the period of the cycle when captured (Buckner 1966). Using the lower estimate of two shrews per acre and extrapolating over the 39 sq km of suitable habitat gives a very rough minimum total population estimate of 19,266 animals on the island.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few (1-3)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: The distribution of S. pribilofensis is naturally restricted to a single island, so this species is vulnerable to localized perturbations. Habitat is largely intact, but human activities and climatic warming are of potential concern (ADFG 2005). Although the effects of climate change on this species' habitat are unknown, these shrews are a relict, cold-adapted species that could be compromised by a warmer climate.

Byrd and Norvell (1993) found the shrews to be distributed widely at relatively high densities, and they identified no immediate threats to the species or to most of their habitat. Little habitat fragmentation has occurred. Of St. Paul Island's 10,093 hectares, only 2 to 3% has been developed. This includes the village of St. Paul, a fish processing plant, the Coast Guard Loran station, an airport, the POSS Helicopter camp (Pribilof Offshore Support Service) and a new seaport (Braund 1986). There are approximately 35 miles of roads which section the island into several large parcels. These facilities do not appear to have caused significant fragmentation of the shrew habitat to date (Byrd and Norvell 1988). There is additional possible threat from habitat loss to new development and overgrazing by caribou, and population declines if rats are accidentally introduced to the island.
In the past, introduced caribou have over-extended their carrying capacity on St. Paul Island and greatly impacted the vegetation and shrew habitat (Fay and Sease 1985). The herd is now maintained at approximately 500 animals.

With recent completion of the new seaport, increased shipping traffic is expected and the probability of Norway rat introductions will increase. The ecological consequences of this possibility are not well known. Rats introduced to different Aleutian Islands have spread across entire islands, invading most habitats (Brechbill 1977). They are believed to function as significant predators of birds and other wildlife on these islands (Schiller 1952, Kenyon 1961, Amundsen 1974). Byrd and Norvell (1988) predicted that predation on the shrews would increase if rats were introduced to St. Paul Island; rats could also introduce diseases that may be detrimental to the shrews, though this possibility has not been documented. Poisoned bait intended for rats could be deleterious for shrews (ADFG 2005).

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Trend is unknown but suspected to be stable. The population is presumed to be at undisturbed levels, although it may fluctuate substantially (West 1991, ADFG 2005).

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: The shrews have been known to occur on the island for over 200 years (Fay and Sease 1985). The population is believed to have existed on St. Paul since the area became an island, approximately 16,000 years ago (Hoffmann and Peterson 1967, Hopkins 1967).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: The distribution of shrews on St. Paul is fairly well known and occurrences can be reasonably predicted throughout the range (Byrd and Mendenhall 1986, Byrd and Norvell 1988). Additional surveys are needed on Otter Island where the presence of preferred plant communities suggests the shrew might occur (Byrd and Norvell 1988). Surveys should be conducted on Unalaska Island to determine if Sorex hydrodromus actually exists and, if so, to reevaluate its taxonomic relationship to S. pribilofensis.

Population densities for many other small mammals are cyclical and/or eruptive; the extent of habitat used is greater when population densities are high, therefore, short-term estimations of density and extent of habitat use are not effective. Long-term monitoring at index locations is needed to accurately estimate population size and identify trends (ADFG 2005).

Protection Needs: Present protection needs include: 1. Identifying and protecting sufficient preferred habitat to insure maintenance of a viable population. 2. Minimizing the feral cat population. 3. Managing the reindeer herds to prevent overgrazing of shrew habitat. 4. Preventing introduction of rats onto the island.

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)) The known geographic range is confined to St. Paul Island (90 sq km), Pribilof Islands, Alaska. The species is distributed primarily along the periphery of the island. Plant associations supporting shrews in summer occupied nearly 40 sq km in the late 1980s (Byrd and Norvell 1993). No shrews have been collected on neighboring St. George and Otter islands, despite numerous surveys (Preble and McAtee 1923, Byrd and Norvell 1988, 1993).

Type locality was reported as "Unalaska Islands, Aleutian Islands." However, attempts to collect shrews from the type locality have not been successful. Presumably the shrews, to which the name hydrodromus has been applied, were collected on St. Paul Island of the Pribilof Islands.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2003


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AK Aleutians West (CA) (02016)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
19 Pribilof Islands (19030104)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A small mammal (shrew).
General Description: COLOR: The summer pelage has a distinct tricolor pattern. A dark brown band extends from the top of the head down along the back. This band is sharply defined from the lighter brown sides which are, in turn, noticeably distinct from the greyish underparts. The tail is bicolored--narrowly brown above and broadly white below. The feet are nearly white with a pinkish tinge. During winter the color of the lower parts and sides tend to be similar, giving the appearance of a more bicolor pattern. In both pelages the light color extends well up on the sides and contrasts sharply with the relatively dark dorsal band (Merriam 1895, van Zyll de Jong 1976, Hall and Gilmore 1932).

SIZE: Body length 63 mm (range 56-70); tail length 35 mm (32-37); hind foot 13 mm (12-14) (Hoffmann and Peterson 1967).

Diagnostic Characteristics: The only shrew on St. Paul Island. Jackson (1928) noted that compared with any species of the Sorex cinereus group, S. pribilofensis has a shorter tail, a more pronounced tricolor summer pelage, and a much reduced dark dorsal stripe in winter. Cranially, S. pribilofensis has a broader, shorter skull, with a heavier rostrum, broader palate and heavier dentition. Compared with members of the S. arcticus group, S. pribilofensis is smaller and paler in winter pelage. The skull is shorter and broader interorbitally, with a flatter, less angular cranium, and shorter rostrum. Detailed cranial measurement comparisons were presented by Hoffmann and Peterson (1967) and van Zyll de Jong (1982). See Carraway (1995) for a key to western North American soricids based primarily on dentaries.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Tundra
Habitat Comments: Maritime tundra. On St. Paul Island, capture rates were highest in dune habitats and grass-umbel habitats, less in forb and mixed habitats, none in Carex or upland habitats; seemingly most abundant in habitats with more tall stems per unit area (Byrd and Norvell 1988).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Remains of beetles observed in some stomachs (Byrd and Norvell 1988).
Adult Phenology: Circadian
Immature Phenology: Circadian
Phenology Comments: Capture rate not affected by time of day or wind velocity, but more were caught in all habitats on warmer days and on days with no precipitation (Byrd and Norvell 1988).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Present research needs include: continued assessment of habitat preferences and requirements, measurement of reproductive capacity, estimation of feral cat and arctic fox predation levels, investigation of other causes of mortality, and long-term population viability analysis. Additional research needs include an evaluation of interspecific interactions, and collection and archival of material for genetic analyses (ADFG 2005).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Shrews

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: An area of suitable habitat where there is evidence of presence (or historical presence), with potential for continued presence; evidence minimally including a specimen or, in the case of certain species, a determination by a reliable observer of a live specimen in the hand.
Separation Barriers: Arbitrarily set at rivers wider than 50 meters at low water. Some shrews are relatively strong, active swimmers (notably SOREX PALUSTRIS, S. BENDIRII, SOREX ALASKANUS). No data on dispersal or other movement across water barriers.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Dispersal distances of shrews are poorly known, but these mammals are mobile enough to cover fairly large distances. Mature males especially may wander widely (Hawes 1977). Separation distance for suitable habitat attempts to reflect the small home range size of shrews, their secretive habits and consequent apparent absence in areas where they do in fact occur, and the seemingly low probability that two occupied locations separated by a gap of less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent populations.

Home ranges small: for breeding SOREX VAGRANS in British Columbia, 338 - 5261 square meters (Hawes 1977); in California, mean of about 372 square meters (Ingles 1961); for breeding S. MONTICOLUS (=OBSCURUS) in British Columbia, mean of 4020 square meters (Hawes 1977); for S. ARANEUS in England, a fall and winter home range of about 2800 square meters, with females occupying exclusive ranges (Buckner 1969).

Date: 21Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09Jan2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: West, E. W., G. Hammerson, S. Schoen, and T.A. Gotthardt
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 23May1994
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): West, E., and G. Hammerson

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • Amundsen, C.D. 1974. Dynamics and methods involved in the revegetation of Amchitka Island. 1. Revegetation of damaged areas. 2. Primary consumer effects of vegetation. USAEC Report ORO-4180-4. Univ. of Tennessee.

  • Baker, R. J., L. C. Bradley, R. D. Bradley, J. W. Dragoo, M. D. Engstrom, R. S. Hoffman, C. A. Jones, F. Reid, D. W. Rice, and C. Jones. 2003a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2003. Museum of Texas Tech University Occasional Papers 229:1-23.

  • Bradley, R.D., L.K. Ammerman, R.J. Baker, L.C. Bradley, J.A. Cook. R.C. Dowler, C. Jones, D.J. Schmidly, F.B. Stangl Jr., R.A. Van den Bussche and B. Würsig. 2014. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 2014. Museum of Texas Tech University Occasional Papers 327:1-28. Available at: http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/publications/opapers/ops/OP327.pdf

  • Braund, S.R. 1986. A description of the socioeconomic and sociocultural systems of the Aleutian-Pribilof Islands region. Tech. Rep. No. 118, OCS Study, MMS 86-0034. Prepared for Minerals Management Service by Stephen R. Braund & Assoc., Anchorage, AK. 121 p.

  • Brechbill, R.A. 1977. Status of the Norway rat. Pp. 261-267. In: Merritt, M.L., and R.G. Fuller. The environment of Amchitka Island, Alaska. Energy Research and Development Administration, Technical Information Center.

  • Buckner, C. H. 1969. Some aspects of the population ecology of the common shrew, Sorex araneus, near Oxford, England. Journal of Mammalogy 50:326-332.

  • Buckner, C.H. 1966. Populations and ecological relationships of shrews in tamarack bogs of southeastern Manitoba. Jour. Mamm. 47(2):181-194.

  • Byrd, G. V., and N. Norvell. 1988. Distribution and habitat use of the Pribilof shrew in summer. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska. 27 pp.

  • Byrd, G. V., and N. Norvell. 1993. Status of the Pribilof shrew based on summer distribution and habitat use. Northwestern Naturalist 74:49-54.

  • Byrd, G.V. and V.M. Mendenhall. 1986. Habitat use by the Pribilof shrew in summer. U.S. Dept. Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, AK Maritime NWR, Homer, AK. 13 p. + maps.

  • Carraway, L. N. 1995. A key to Recent Soricidae of the western United States and Canada based primarily on dentaries. Occasional Papers of the Natural History Museum, University of Kansas (175):1-49.

  • Churchfield, S. 1992. The Natural History of Shrews. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 192 pp.

  • Demboski, J. R., and J. A. Cook. 2003. Phylogenetic diversification within the Sorex cinereus group (Soricidae). Journal of Mammalogy 84:144-158.

  • Fay, F.H., and J.L. Sease. 1985. Preliminary status survey of selected small mammals. Final report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Univ. of Alaska, Institute of Marine Science, Fairbanks, AK. 53 p.

  • George, S. B. 1988. Systematics, historical biogeography, and evolution of the genus Sorex. J. Mammalogy 69:443-461.

  • Hall, E. R. 1981a. The Mammals of North America, second edition. Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.

  • Hall, E.R. and R.M. Gilmore. 1932. New mammals from St. Lawrence Island, Bering Sea, Alaska. Univ. Calif. Publ. Zool. 38(9):391-404.

  • Hawes, M. L. 1977. Home range, territoriality and ecological separation in sympatric shrews, Sorex vagrans and Sorex obscurus. Journal of Mammalogy. 58:354-367.

  • Hoffmann, R.S., and R.S. Peterson. 1967. Systematics and zoogeography of SOREX in the Bering Strait Area. Syst. Zool. 16(2):127-136.

  • Honacki, J. H., K. E. Kinman, and J. W. Koepf (eds.). 1982. Mammal species of the world. Allen Press, Inc. and Assoc. Syst. Coll., Lawrence, Kansas. 694 pp.

  • Hopkins, D.M. 1967. The Cenozoic history of Beringia: a synthesis. Pp. 451-484. In: The Bering land bridge. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA.

  • Ingles, L. G. 1961. Home range and habitats of the wandering shrew. Journal of Mammalogy 42:455-462.

  • Jackson, H. H. 1961. Mammals of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 504 pp.

  • Jackson, H.H. 1928. A taxonomic review of the North Americanlong tailed shrews (genera Sorex and Microsorex). N. Amer. Fauna. 51:1-238.

  • Jones, C., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, M. D. Engstrom, R. D. Bradley, D. J. Schmidly, C. A. Jones, and R. J. Baker. 1997. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1997. Occasional Papers, Museum of Texas Tech University 173:1-20.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.

  • Kenyon, K.W. 1961. Birds of Amchitka Island. Auk 78(3):305-326.

  • Kirkwood and Associates. 1987. City of Saint Paul conceptually approved coastal management plan. Vol. 1.

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  • Preble, E.A., and W.L. McAtee. 1923. A biological survey of the Pribilof Islands, Alaska. I. Birds and Mammals. N. Amer. Fauna 46:1-128.

  • Rausch, R. L., and V. R. Rausch. 1997. Evidence for specific independence of the shrew (Mammalia: Soricidae) of St. Paul Island (Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea). Z. f. Saugetierk 62:193-202.

  • Schiller, E.L. 1952. Studies on the helminth fauna of Alaska. V. Notes on Adak Rats (RATTUS NORVEGICUS Berkenhout) with special reference to helminth parasites. J. Mamm. 33(1):38-49.

  • Van Zyll de Jong, C.G. 1976. Are there two species of pygmy shrew (Microsorex)?. The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90:485-487.

  • West, E.W. 1991. St. Lawrence Island Shrew. Pp. 39-45 in: Status reports on selected Alaskan mammals of ecological concern. Alaska Natural Heritage Program, Anchorage, AK.

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