Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
Search the Archive

  Soricomorpha · Soricidae · Sorex ornatus
   Smithsonian Institution
   Copyright Notice
   Privacy Notice
Sorex ornatus

Ornate Shrew

Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Soricidae

Image of Sorex ornatus
Click to enlarge. (133 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Since the Ornate Shrew is grayish-brown, with paler grayish underparts, and is small and inconspicuous overall, one may wonder about the inspiration for its name. Did it remind the biologist who named it, in 1895, of a well-dressed but unpleasant acquaintance? The biologist in question, C. Hart Merriam, commented that the shrew had a distinct patch or "saddle" of darker fur near its rump that strongly contrasted with the softer gray on the rest of its back. This may have been why he named it "ornatus." The Ornate Shrew occurs from northern California to northern Baja, and in three small, isolated populations, two in Baja California, Mexico, and one on Santa Catalina Island. It inhabits both upland and marshland habitats, though it must have water nearby. The climate throughout this shrew's range is marked by long, dry summers and cooler, wetter winters. Habitat preferences, whether saltmarsh or upland terrain, always include enough dense vegetation to give protection from the hot sun or drenching rains. The animal suffers if the onset of the rainy season is delayed.

Also known as:
Suisun Shrew

Sexual Dimorphism:

Range: 80-110 mm

Range: 2.9-8.7 g


Merriam, C.H., 1895.  Synopsis of the American shrews of the genus Sorex,p. 79.  North American Fauna, 10:57-98.


Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Sorex ornatus