from the loki-shrew-harder-to-find dept.
sciencehabit writes "It's the size of large rat, but it can reportedly withstand the weight of an adult man standing on its back. Meet the hero shrew, a molelike creature that owes its near-mythological status to a remarkable spine, thickened by extensions of bone that interlock like fingers. The structure was thought to be unique among mammals — until now. An international team of researchers in the village of Baleko, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, made a surprising find: a slightly different shrew with a similarly 'heroic' backbone. Today in Biology Letters, they introduce Thor's hero shrew (S. thori), named for mammalogist Thorvald Holmes, but invoking the Norse god of strength. The researchers don't yet know how its strength compares to that of S. somereni. After exploring the shrews' swampy palm forests habitat, the researchers also have a new guess about why the spine evolved: They suggest that the creatures might wedge themselves between the trunk of a palm tree and the base of its leaves, then use the strength and flexion of their muscular spine to force open this crevice, revealing insect larvae—a food source that other animals can't access."
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves
up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.
-- Winston Churchill