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Hirakawa, H. and W. Haberl. 1998. The behaviour of licking the everted rectum in shrews (Soricidae, Insectivora). Acta Theriologica 43 (2): 113-120.

The behaviour of licking the everted rectum in shrews, hitherto referred to as "coprophagy" or "refection" is reviewed. To avoid confusion with "true" faeces-eating, it is proposed to persistently use the descriptive term "rectum-licking" when referring to this phenomenon. The behaviour is characterized by the animal everting the rectum by a series of abdominal contractions and licking it in a curled-up posture, apparently ingesting a yet undetermined substance often described as a "milky white fluid". This behaviour has been reported repeatedly, but most previous observations are only fragmentary and the accounts on the generality, frequency, rhythm, timing, mechanism, and functions of the behaviour are not all consistent. Rectum-licking is certainly an infrequent and elusive behaviour, which can be mistaken for other behaviours that share the same curled-up posture. Further studies are required to elucidate this behaviour.

Haberl, W., K. Koyasu, H. Hirakawa and R.M. Baxter. 1997. A note on "rectum licking" in shrews (Soricidae, Insectivora). Journal of Growth 36 (2): 77-81.

The behaviour of licking the everted rectum in shrews is photo-documented in three species (Sorex araneus Linnaeus, 1758, Crocidura flavescens (I. Geoffroy, 1827) and Crocidura dsinezumi (Temminck, 1844)) in order to provide a basis for distinguishing this elusive behaviour from other similar behaviours that share the same curled-up posture (coprophagy, grooming, licking the genitals). References to other hitherto published photo- and film-material are provided, complementing the recent review of this behaviour by Hirakawa and Haberl (1998).

Fig. 1: Sorex araneus Linnaeus, 1758 everting its rectum. Photo by W. Haberl. Journal of Growth 36 (2), 1997.

Fig. 2: Sorex araneus picked up during rectum-licking. the everted rectum is still visible. Photo by W. Haberl. Journal of Growth 36 (2), 1997.

Fig. 3: Crocidura flavescens (I. Geoffroy, 1827) using a corner as a support for the posture. Photo by R. M. Baxter. Journal of Growth 36 (2), 1997.

Fig. 4: Crocidura dsinezumi (Temminck, 1842) dragging behind the flaccid everted rectum.. Photo by K. Koyasu (Courtesy of K. Ohno). Journal of Growth 36 (2), 1997.

Dr. Werner Haberl. Address: Hamburgerstrasse 11, A-1050 Vienna, Austria.