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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone

Infraclass: EUTHERIA

Superorder: AFROTHERIA

The order Afrosoricida was first proposed by Stanhope et al in 1998, following several molecular studies that placed golden moles and tenrecs together to the exclusion of the other families of Insectivora. One such study was that of Springer et al in 1997, in which the DNA sequences of three mitochondrial genes and two nuclear genes were analysed across the orders of placental mammals. Tenrecs were not represented in the study, but golden moles were and all the gene data suggested that golden moles were more closely related to other African insectivorous mammals rather than to other families of Insectivora. These other African mammals include hyraxes, manatees, elephants, elephant shrews and aardvarks.

Drawing on the work of Springer et al, Stanhope et al (1998) found congruence for the suggested African clade by analysing further sequence data. Tenrecs were also included in the research, and not only did the tenrec associate with the African clade more readily then with Insectivora, but also formed a particularly strong association with golden moles within the African clade. Therefore, Stanhope et al proposed two new taxonomic names to incorporate these findings. The superordinal clade of African insectivorous mammals was termed Afrotheria, and the close grouping of tenrecs and golden moles was recognised with ordinal status (Afrosoricida), within Afrotheria.

Since that time, virtually all molecular research has supported Afrotheria and Afrosoricida, and it is unlikely that the traditional six families of Insectivora will again be associated together, on the basis of molecular data. As an alternative to Insectivora, in light of tenrecs and golden moles being removed from the order, the remaining four families of Insectivora are often referred to as the order Eulipotyphla.

The order Afrosoricida is comprised of the following 2 families:-


Click on the families for more information