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Last Updated: Wednesday June 02 2010 06:51 GMT

Scientists spot 'living fossil'

Hispaniola solenodon

This little creature is called a Hispaniolan solenodon and is one of the rarest creatures on earth.

Solenodons have been about since the time of the dinosaurs, and are unusual because they are mammals that poison their prey.

They live in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, but scientists think that they could now be under threat.

Human activities, like cutting down forests for fuel, are destroying the solenodon's habitat.

The solenodon is the size of a rabbit, with a ginger-brown coat. It has big, clawed feet, beady little eyes and a very long, thin nose.

Hispaniola solenodon
The solenodon forages for food with its long nose.

But perhaps its most bizarre feature is that it is the only mammal that can inject poison through its teeth, the same way a snake does.

The poison, while not deadly to humans, allows the solenodon to eat bugs as it moves around the forest at night.

Scientist Sam Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London, said: "There is this concept of the solenodon being a 'living fossil', because it does seem to have retained certain, potentially ancient, features."

One of these features is a groove in its teeth that allows it to inject venom into its prey.