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Family Erinaceidae

The family Erinaceidae family is comprised of early placental mammals, hedgehogs and gymnures, with fossils first observed in the Eocene Epoch. The family is divided into two subfamilies: Erinaceinae (the hedgehogs) and Galericinae (the gymnures and moonrats). There are five extant genera within the Erinaceinae subfamily: Atelerix, Erinaceus, Hemiechinus, Mesechinus, and Paraechinus. Atelerix has four species that range across Africa. Erinaceus also has four species that range from Europe, into the Baltic Peninsula, Middle East, and Eastern Asia. Hemiechinus has two species ranging from North Eastern Africa into Central Asia with one species occurring in India. The genus Mesechinus consist of two species found in Eastern Asia. Lastly, Paraechinus has four species with ranges across Northern Africa and landmasses along the Arabian Sea. The Subfamily Galericinae has five extant genera: Echinosorex, Hylomys, Neohylomys, Neotetracus, and Podogymnura. Within these genera are eight extant species of Gelericinae which are found in regions around the South China Sea including Indonesia, the Philippines, Borneo, and areas near and including the Malay Peninsula. Hedgehogs can be found in a variety of climates and environments while gymnures are primarily found in wet tropical environments. Although hedgehogs are generally the size of mice and small rats, gymnures can be as large as a rabbit. Hedgehogs have become a valuable part of the pet trade, but in certain regions of the world this has led to invasive populations particularly on islands.

Although they are from the same family, hedgehogs and gymnures look very different. The hedgehog’s appearance is defined by the hollow spine-like hairs on their backs which become visible within hours of birth. These spines act as a defense mechanism for the hedgehog that can roll itself into a ball for protection against predators. Although primarily seen as a defense mechanism, research suggests that the spines on hedgehogs can function to absorb impacts such as might be encountered in a fall. Gymnures, also called moonrats, do not have spines but instead emit a foul smell resembling rancid garlic or onion to deter predators. Unlike the hedgehog, they are not exclusively nocturnal and can be considerably larger in size. Despite these differences both subfamilies are known to be good climbers, swimmers, and burrowers. They are also known to have a diverse diet ranging from plants and fruit, to small invertebrates and reptiles. Although they mate up to twice a year, most of their lifetime is spent in solitude.


Work Cited
Ciszek, D. and P. Myers 2000. “Erinaceidae” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 18, 2015 at
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. . Downloaded on 17 February 2015.
Vincent, Julian FV, and Paul Owers. “Mechanical design of hedgehog spines and porcupine quills.” Journal of Zoology 210.1 (1986): 55-75.

Author: Edward Peebles

Family Soricidae

The Soricidae family is one of the largest and most diversified mammalian clades, comprising more than 300 species, including small shrews that can be dated back to the middle Oligocene (~ 30 My). The oldest true soricid is Srinitium marteli, a now extinct species with fossils distributed in southern France. The family is divided into three extant subfamilies: Soricinae (red-toothed shrews), Crocidurinae (white-toothed shrews), and Myosoricinae (African white-toothed shrews). The Soricinae are mainly distributed in the Holarctic region (the nontropical regions of Europe, Asia, North America, and northern Africa) and is the only subfamily found in the New World. There are 14 genera within the Soricinae subfamily: Anourosorex, Blarinella, Blarina, Cryptotis, Chimarrogale, Chodsigoa, Episoriculus, Nectogale, Neomys, Nesiotites, Soriculus, Megasorex, Notiosorex, and Sorex. Of the 146 species within the Soricinae subfamily, a large proportion (76%) occurs within the Blarinella, Blarina, and Cryptotis genera. The Crocidurinae, which have diversified in Africa and Eurasia, contain nine genera: Crocidura, Diplomesodon, Feroculus, Paracrocidura, Ruwenzorisorex, Scutisorex, Solisorex, Suncus, and Sylvisorex. There are 210 described species split into these genera, with a large proportion of these species occurring within the Crocidura, Suncus, and Sylvisorex genera. Finally, the Myosoricinae, found only in Africa, comprising of three genera (Congosorex, Myosorex, and Surdisorex) contain 18 species.

Shrews are small (head and body length, 35 – 150 mm; body mass, 2 – 106 g), mouse-like mammals that can occasionally be mistaken for small rodents. Although they are generally small in size, the difference in body mass between each species is huge. The smallest species of shrews (Suncus etruscus) can weigh around 1.8–3 g, while the largest species (Suncus murinus) can weigh up to 147.3 g. Shrews have small pinnae that are concealed by fur, small eyes, and an elongated snout.

As several of the shrew species are at or near the size limit of homoeothermic animals, they have a metabolic rate higher than other rodents. The Soricinae and the Crocidurinae differ in terms of their energy metabolism, where the Soricinae tend to have higher metabolic levels; this difference may be attributed to the different regions where the two subfamilies originated. As a result of their high metabolism that requires them to feed constantly, shrews can be active at any time of the day. Shrews are insectivores but may also occasionally feed on small vertebrates, carrion, and vegetation.

Work Cited

Dubey, S., Salamin, N., Ruedi, M., Barrière, P., Colyn, M., & Vogel, P. 2008. Biogeographic origin and radiation of the Old World crocidurine shrews (Mammalia: Soricidae) inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear genes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 48(3), 953-963.

Matson, J. O., & Woodman, N. 2019. Shrews (Eulipotyphla, Soricidae) of Guatemala. Musarañas (Eulipotyphla, Soricidae) de Guatemala. Perspectivas de Investigación Sobre Los Mamíferos Silvestres de Guatemala (Research Perspectives on the Wild Mammals of Guatemala).

Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2021. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed 3 December, 2021 at

Reumer, J. W. F. 1989. Speciation and evolution in the Soricidae (Mammalia: Insectivora) in relation with the paleoclimate. Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 96, 81-90.

Woodman, N., & Wilken, A. T. 2019. Comparative functional skeletal morphology among three genera of shrews: implications for the evolution of locomotor behavior in the Soricinae (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae). Journal of Mammalogy100(6), 1750-1764.

Author: Erika Lau

Family Solenodontidae

Solenodons are endemic to the Caribbean islands, Cuba and Hispaniola. As the fossil record of the mammalian family Solenodontidae is limited, its ancestral lineage is unclear. However, the two main hypotheses suggest that the family diverged from other mammalian clades, either in the Late Cretaceous or the Paleocene. The Solenodontidae family comprises two extant species (Solenodon cubanus and Solenodon paradoxus). The Cuban solenodon (S. cubanus) is thought to be forest-dependent, only occurring in montane and submontane primary forests of the Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa Massif in eastern Cuba. However, recent reports indicate that the species also occurs in forest–agricultural mosaic habitat outside protected areas in Pinares de Mayarí. The Hisponolian solenodon (S. paradoxus) occurs in numerous protected areas in the Dominican Republic and in the Massif de la Hotte in southwestern Haiti, and in southeastern Haiti. Similar to its Cuban counterpart, the Hisponolian solenodon can also occur in primary forest and human-modified landscapes. It is divided into three subspecies: S. p. paradoxus (Dominican Republic north of the Neiba Valley), S. p. haitiensis (Massif de la Hotte, Haiti), and S. p. woodi (Massif de la Selle, southeastern Haiti, and Sierra de Bahoruco, southwestern Dominican Republic).

Solenodons are the last survivors of ancient insectivores that inhabited the Caribbean, alongside dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. As a result, they can provide meaningful insight into ancient mammal phylogeny and physiology. Solenodons are relatively large in size (~ 1 kg), resembling very hefty shrews. The Cuban solenodon is typically smaller than its Hispaniolan counterpart. Solenodons have elongated cartilaginous snouts, hairless feet, small eyes, and long and naked tails. The Cuban solenodon has rusty brown fur with black colouring along its throat and back, while the Hispaniolan solenodon has a darker shade of brown with a yellowish tint to its face.

Being nocturnal, solenodons spend their day burrowing or hiding in hollow logs or crevices. They use limestone caves and fallen logs as denning sites. They are terrestrial insectivores, foraging in soil and leaf litter for invertebrates. Uniquely among all mammals, solenodons inject their prey with venom using their special grooved lower incisors. The venom also allows them to subdue and eat other animals, including frogs, small reptiles, and some rodents.

Work Cited

Edge of Existence. 2017. Cuban Solenodon (online). Accessed 3 December, 2021 at

Kennerley, R. J., Nicoll, M. A., Young, R. P., Turvey, S. T., Nuñez-Miño, J. M., Brocca, J. L., & Butler, S. J. 2019. The impact of habitat quality inside protected areas on distribution of the Dominican Republic’s last endemic non-volant land mammals. Journal of mammalogy100(1), 45-54.

Springer, M. S., Murphy, W. J., & Roca, A. L. 2018. Appropriate fossil calibrations and tree constraints uphold the Mesozoic divergence of solenodons from other extant mammals. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution121, 158-165.

Turvey, S. T., Kennerley, R. J., Nuñez-Miño, J. M., & Young, R. P. 2017. The last survivors: current status and conservation of the non-volant land mammals of the insular Caribbean. Journal of Mammalogy98(4), 918-936.

Author: Erika Lau

Family Talpidae

The Talpidae family includes desmans, moles, and shrew moles. Fossils from this family have been linked to the early Eocene in Europe, the early Oligocene in North America, and the late Miocene in Asia. There are three subfamilies within the Talpidae family: Scalopinae (New World moles and relatives), Talpinae (Old World moles and relatives), and Uropsilinae (Chinese shrew moles). The Scalopinae subfamily comprises of five genera: Condylura, Prascalops, Scalopus, Scapanulus, and Scapanus. Condylura, Parascalops and Scalopus each have one species that live in the Nearctic biogeographic region (most of North America and Greenland), while Scapanulus has one species that is endemic to central China. Scapanus has three species that occur in North America. There are twelve genera in the Talpinae subfamily: Euroscaptor, Desmana, Dymecodon, Galemys, Mogera, Nesoscaptor, Parascaptor, Neurotrichus, Scaptochirus, Scaptonyx, Talpa, and Urotrichus. Euroscaptor has six species that are endemic to Southeast and Eastern Asia. Desmana has one species endemic to southwest Russia. Galemys has one species endemic to Europe. Neurotrichus has one species that is found in western North America. Dymecodon, Parascaptor, Scaptonyx, Scaptochirus, and Urotrichus each have one species that are found in Eastern Asia. Talpa has nine species that range from the Mediterranean region, into the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Mogera consists of five species found in Eastern Asia. Nesoscaptor uchidai, endemic to Eastern Asia, is the only species in Nesoscaptor. Some researchers argue that this species is closely related to Mogera insularis and should be placed in the same genus (Mogera). The Uropsilinae family has one genus (Uropsilus) that contains four species, all of which are endemic to China.

As members of the Talpidae family dig to varying degrees, they have evolved different adaptations for this behaviour. Moles are largely subterranean and have adapted powerful claws and paws that are permanently turned outwards to aid in shoveling dirt. On the contrary, desmans are aquatic, occurring in lakes and rivers and only burrowing in riverbanks for shelter; they thus have webbed claws to aid in swimming. Moles dig permanent burrows and consume prey that falls into them, while shrew moles construct true tunnels but forage in the leaf litter layer. Talpids are generally insectivorous. The main difference in diet between moles and desmans is that moles consume terrestrial invertebrates while desmans prey on aquatic invertebrates.

Work Cited

Edge of Existence. 2010. Cuban Solenodon (online). Accessed 3 December, 2021 at

MacDonald, D. W. 1987. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File.

Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2021. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed 3 December, 2021 at

Author: Erika Lau