I wish their whole site weren’t built around Flash, but EDGE has put together a great package highlighting a range of species that are unique and disappearing around the world.
The solenodon, for instance, is a possible relative of Madagascar’s tenrecs, separated by Africa and the Atlantic. The Hispaniolan species lives only on the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If you recall my post on rainforests and development, or my article for Seedmagazine.com, the Haitian side of the island is in pretty serious trouble. The Dominican Republic is doing better, but Solenodon habitat there is in plenty of danger.
The other species of Solenodon was thought to have gone extinct from the forests of Cuba. While the American embargo has probably done little good in terms of beating Castro, it has ensured that Cuban forests faced less pressure than those elsewhere, and populations were rediscovered there in the 1970s. Less is known about them than their Hispaniolan cousins, and that’s not saying much. Even the preferred diet of the genus is disputed, with uncertainty about the amount of vegetation they will eat.
Solenodon literally means “grooved tooth,” and those grooves allow the species to deliver a poisonous bite. They join shrews and the platypus as the only mammals with venomous bites. The slow loris produces a toxin from glands on its elbows, which it can use to cover its offspring, and apparently also can place in its mouth for biting, but I consider that cheating.