The order Insectivora (from Latin insectum "insect" and vorare "to eat") is a now-abandoned biological grouping within the class of mammals. Some species have now been moved out leaving the remaining ones in order Eulipotyphla, within the larger clade Laurasiatheria, which makes up one of the most basic clades of placental mammals.
In the past, the grouping was used as a scrapbasket for a variety of small to very small, relatively unspecialised, insectivorous mammals. Since any primitive-looking fossil groups of placental mammals were commonly assigned to this order for convenience, it was held to constitute the basal stock out of which other placental orders had evolved. At its widest extent, therefore, the order Insectivora was polyphyletic and cannot be considered a clade.
The taxonomy has been refined in recent years, and treeshrews, elephant shrews, and colugos have now been placed in separate orders, as have many fossil groups that were formerly included here. For some time it was held that the remaining insectivoran families constituted a monophyletic grouping, or clade, to which the name Lipotyphla had long been applied. However, molecular evidence indicated that Chrysochloridae (golden moles) and Tenrecidae (tenrecs) also should be separated as a new order Afrosoricida. The species remaining in the clade Insectivora were then referred to as order Eulipotyphla.
After further scrutiny, other evidence now indicates that even Erinaceidae (hedgehogs) should also be placed in a separate order from the remainder, comprising the families Soricidae (shrews), Talpidae (moles), Solenodontidae and Nesophontidae. These two orders, Erinaceomorpha and Soricomorpha, now replace Insectivora. Molecular studies indicate that Soricomorpha is paraphyletic, because Soricidae shared a more recent common ancestor with Erinaceidae than with other soricomorphs. Other recent studies, however, supports the monophyly of Eulipotyphla. As a result, additional research will be needed to determine the exact position of Erinaceidae and Soricidae.
- ORDER LIPOTYPHLA (= 'Insectivora')
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