solenodon (sōlēˈnədŏn) [key], venomous insectivorous mammal, genus Solenodon, found in the West Indies. Related to moles and shrews, the solenodon resembles a rat with an elongated snout and coarse, shaggy fur. Its body is about 14 in. (36 cm) long, and its naked, scaly tail c.9 in. (23 cm) long. It is the only living mammal that has specialized teeth (grooved incisors) that allow it to inject poisonous saliva into its prey. Solenodons are chiefly nocturnal; they eat insects, lizards, frogs, and other small animals, as well as carrion. Easily irritated, they fly into sudden rages, screaming and biting without provocation.
There are two surviving solenodon species. S. cubanus, found in the Bayama Mts. of Cuba, is rusty brown with black on its back and throat; S. paradoxus, found on Hispaniola, is darker brown with a yellowish face and a ruff of hair about the shoulders. Two extinct species are known from remains on Cuba and Hispaniola.
Solenodons are slow breeders, bearing a single litter of one to three young each year. Their numbers have been greatly reduced since the introduction of predators such as the mongoose, the cat, and the dog and as a result of habitat destruction, and they are now threatened with extinction. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Soricomorpha, family Solenodontidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.