Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


SE Asia fauna ...  
 Large Mammals
 Small Mammals
 Mammal calls
 Lizards & Crocodilians
 Frog calls
Freshwater Fishes
 Marine & Brackish Fishes
Species Lists


New Guinea herptiles ...  
Snakes   Lizards   Frogs  
SE Asia Vert Records (SEAVR) archives ...  
  Indochina Records
  Indonesia & PNG Records
Philippines Vertebrate Records (PVR)  
Philippines Records  
Email :
  New or updated pages ...

Search this site ...




Email :

Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Lesser gymnures

Family : Erinaceidae
Species : 7 species (as of 2023)

Hylomys spp. :
Head-body length : 9.8 to 15.7 cm
Tail length : approx 0.7 to 3.2 cm
Weight : 40 to 80 grams

Lesser gymnures (i.e. the genus Hylomys) are small, stout-bodied, terrestrial mammals with short legs, a relatively large head, and a pointed snout. At a glance, they look somewhat like shrews, but they are more closely related to hedgehogs.

They occur in southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo.

As of 2023, seven species are recognised based on molecular and morphological data, all of which occur in Southeast Asia (Hinckley et al, 2023).

Three species have a wide distribution (H. peguensis in Indochina, H. maxi in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, and H. suillus on the island of Java). The other four species are of limited distribution (H. dorsalis, H. macarong, H. parvus, H. vorax). Reference should be made to the distribution map in Hinckley et al (2023).

The dorsal fur of lesser gymnures is brown, and somewhat grizzled, and the underside is greyish or greyish-brown. They bear numerous equally-sized teeth with which they can easily grip soft-bodied prey. Their ears are rounded and relatively large. Their legs are short, and their feet are plantigrade (walking on the sole with the heel touching the ground), with sharp claws. The tail is short and mainly hairless. The head is large, and comprises around one-third of the head-body length.

Lesser gymnures are rather shy, and will hastily conceal themselves if disturbed. At Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia, they have been observed retreating to piles of rocks in long-established gardens close to primary forest. In Borneo they build nests of leaves hidden under rocks or logs (Phillipps & Phillipps, 2016).

Lesser gymnures in Peninsular Malaysia may be encountered by day (Figs 1 and 2), but may be active at night too. In northeast Borneo they are reported as diurnal (Phillipps & Phillipps, 2016).

Their prey comprises soft-bodied invertebrates such as earthworms, insect grubs, as well as snails, beetles, crickets, centipedes, small reptiles, amphibians and occasionally fungi, and fallen figs and fruits.

Illustrated here is Hylomys maxi (Max's
Short-tailed Gymnure), which inhabits hilly to montane forest in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. In Sumatra it also occurs in the lowlands, but there appear to be no records of this species in the lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 1 : Adult example of Hylomys maxi (Max's Short-tailed Gymnure) from Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia - it was active mid-morning in an overgrown garden. Note the short, thin tail.

Fig 2 : Close-up of the head of Hylomys maxi showing the long pointed snout, and large, rounded ears.

Fig 3 : Lower montane forest at Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia, where Hylomys maxi is sometimes encountered.

Hylomys maxi photos thanks to Graeme Guy.

References :

Hinckley, A., Camacho-Sanchez, M., Chua, M. A., Ruedi, M., Lunde, D., Maldonado, J. E., ... & Hawkins, M. T. (2023). An integrative taxonomic revision of lesser gymnures (Eulipotyphla: Hylomys) reveals five new species and emerging patterns of local endemism in Tropical East Asia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, zlad177.

Phillipps Q. & Phillipps K. (2016). Phillipps Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan. Second Edition. John Beaufoy Publishing. 400 pp.

Fig 1 ゥ  Graeme Guy
Fig 2 ゥ  Graeme Guy
Fig 3