Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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










Small Mammals of  Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia supports a huge diversity of small mammals which play an important role as seed dispersers in the regions forests. They are also a key link in the food chain, with many species preying on insects and other invertebrates, whilst themselves being preyed upon by larger predators. By far the largest groups are the rodents, which includes squirrels, murids (rats, mice etc.) and porcupines. The most remarkable of the group are the flying squirrels - these elusive, nocturnal creatures glide effortlessly from tree to tree by virtue of their patagium, a broad flap of skin which stretches between each limb, but leaves the tail free for balance.

Other small mammals include a variety of shrews and gymnures, which are rarely seen, and treeshrews which, to the untrained eye, look rather like squirrels.


Moles, Shrews, Gymnures etc. (Eulipotyphla)

Insular Mole
Mogera insularis
Crocidura & other genera
  House Shrew 
Suncus murinus
  Lesser gymnures
Hylomys spp.
Echinosorex gymnura

Pikas, Rabbits, Hares (Lagomorpha)

Burmese Hare
Lepus peguensis
  Moupin Pika
Ochotona thibetana   

Colugos (Dermoptera)  Colugos, or 'flying lemurs', are from an ancient lineage of early mammals. As of 2020, four species (in 2 genera) are recognised, with each occurring in different parts of Southeast Asia. Colugos possess a thin membrane stretched between each limb and the tail which helps them glide effortlessly between trees, sometimes more than 100 metres.  All species are folivorous (leaf-eating).  Examples :

Bornean Colugo
Galeopterus borneanus
  Sunda or Malayan Colugo
Galeopterus variegatus

Treeshrews (Scandentia)  Treeshrews superficially resemble rodents, and in the past have been considered as insectivores, however they may be more closely related to primates and colugos. As of 2020, around 23 species are recognised, in 4 genera; the genus Tupaia comprises 19 species or so, with the greatest diversity on the island of Borneo. Despite their name, most treeshrews are terrestrial in habits. They have an elongated muzzle and sharply pointed incisor teeth.  Examples :

Northern Treeshrew
Tupaia belangeri 
  Common Treeshrew
Tupaia glis 
  Northern Smooth-tailed Treeshrew
Dendrogale murina 

Porcupines  (Rodentia, Hystricidae)   Porcupines have evolved sharp, elongated quills for defence, which are actually modified hairs.  In Southeast Asia these are rarely seen, nocturnal mammals, however they may be locally quite common in some forests.  Globally 29 species are recognised, of which 7 occur in Southeast Asia.  Examples :

      Other SE Asia species :
Hystrix crassispinis - Thick-spined (Bornean) Porcupine
Hystrix javanica - Sunda Porcupine
Hystrix pumila - Philippine Porcupine
Hystrix sumatrae - Sumatran Porcupine
Brush-tailed Porcupine
Atherurus macrourus
  Malayan Porcupine
Hystrix brachyura 
  Long-tailed Porcupine
Trichys fasciculata

Kha-nyou  (Rodentia, Diatomyidae)   The Kha-nyou is a unique species and the only living example of its kind. It occurs in a localised area of Laos, in an area of karst limestone. Its skull structure is markedly different to squirrels, murids (rats and mice) and other rodents, and it is therefore assigned to its own family.

Laonastes aenigmamus

Squirrels  (Rodentia, Sciuridae)    Squirrels play a vital ecological role by consuming and dispersing seeds, which make up part of the diet of most species. Within Southeast Asia there are around 91 species of squirrel, comprising 61 diurnal species, and 30 species of nocturnal flying squirrel.  Examples :

SE Asia : 30 species (worldwide 44 species)
Large Black Flying Squirrel
Aeromys tephromelas
Thomas's Flying Squirrel
Aeromys thomasi
Red-cheeked Flying Squirrel
Hylopetes spadiceus
  Horsfield's Flying Squirrel
Iomys horsfieldii
Spotted Giant Flying Squirrel  Petaurista elegans  Red Giant Flying Squirrel
Petaurista petaurista   
  Indian Giant Flying Squirrel
Petaurista philippensis 
  Whiskered Flying Squirrel
Petinomys genibarbis  
  Temminck's Flying Squirrel
Petinomys setosus
SE Asia : 2 species (worldwide 4 species)
4 species, all occur in SE Asia
Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel
Ratufa affinis   
Black Giant Squirrel
Ratufa bicolor 
Himalayan Striped Squirrel
Tamiops macclellandi 
Cambodian Striped Squirrel
Tamiops rodolphii
4 species, all in SE Asia
Bornean Pygmy Squirrel
Exilisciurus exilis
Whitehead's Pygmy Squirrel
Exilisciurus whiteheadi
14 species, all occur in SE Asia
Grey-bellied Squirrel
Callosciurus caniceps 
Pallas's Squirrel
Callosciurus erythraeus   
Variable/Finlaysons Squirrel
Callosciurus finlaysonii
Black-banded Squirrel
Callosciurus nigrovittatus
Plantain Squirrel
Callosciurus notatus
Prevost's Squirrel
Callosciurus prevostii  
Irrawaddy Squirrel
Callosciurus pygerythrus  
17 species, all occur in SE Asia
Horse-tailed Squirrel
Sundasciurus hippurus   
Low's Squirrel
Sundasciurus lowii    
Upland Squirrel
Sundasciurus tahan 
  Slender Squirrel
Sundasciurus tenuis  
Dremomys - 6 species, Lariscus - 4 species,  Menetes - 1 species.
Rheithrosciurus - 1 species, Rhinosciurus - 1 species.  All occur in SE Asia
7 species, all in SE Asia
Red-cheeked Squirrel
Dremomys rufigenis
Three-striped Ground Squirrel
Lariscus insignis
Indochinese Ground Squirrel
Menetes berdmorei
Shrew-faced Ground Squirrel
Rhinosciurus laticaudatus 
Sulawesi Dwarf Squirrels
Prosciurillus spp.

Murids  (Rodentia, Muridae)   Rats and mice are an important part of forest ecology. They are mainly nocturnal and go largely unseen as they search the forest floor for fallen fruits, and the occasional insect to supplement their diet. Within Southeast Asia there are over 150 species of murid.  Examples :

Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse
Chiropodomys gliroides
  Ranee Mice
Haeromys spp.
  Sundaic Mountain Rat
Leopoldamys ciliatus
  Long-tailed Giant Rat 
Leopoldamys sabanus
  Rajah Spiny Rat 
Maxomys rajah
Red Spiny Rat
Maxomys surifer
  House Mouse
Mus musculus (M. castaneus)
Indomalayan Niviventer
Niviventer fulvescens
  Polynesian (or Pacific) Rat
Rattus exulans
  Brown Rat
Rattus norvegicus
Asian House Rat
Rattus tanezumi  
  Malaysian Wood Rat 
Rattus tiomanicus
  Annandale's Rat
Sundamys annandalei
  Mller's Rat
Sundamys muelleri