Chapters 8 and 9

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The Superorder Afrotheria is based on molecular evidence that indicates the relationship of tenrecs, golden moles, elephant shrews, aardvarks, and  tethytheres ("Paenungulata" - elephants, sirenians, and hyraxes).  Tethytheres and possibly aardvarks had been considered to be ungulates.


  • Molecular evidence [Fig. ] indicates golden moles and tenrecs belong in the Afrotheria, a taxonomic group that also includes elephants, sea cows, hyraxes, aardvarks, elephant shrews.  A new order "Afrosoricida" comprises Chrysochloridae (golden moles) and Tenrecidae (tenrecs).
  1. Tenrecidae--tenrecs and water shrews
    1. Ethiopian
    2. urogenital and anal opening terminating in a cloaca
    3. Tenrecs [figs. A, B]
      1. adaptive radiation of 9 genera & 27 species from Madagascar
      2. many are hedgehog-like, can roll into ball with spines
      3. Tenrec Resources and Information by David Kupitz
    4. Otter shrews
      1. 2 genera and 3 species
      2. West-central Africa
      3. large size
      4. Potamogale, the giant African otter shrew [Fig. ]: up to 650 mm and 4 kg


Hemicentetes semispinosus
Lowland Streaked Tenrec; photograph by  Gerald and Buff Corsi, Copyright 2000 California Academy of Sciences; used with permission

  1. Chrysochloridae--golden moles
    1. Ethiopian
    2. 9 genera, 21 species
    3. resemble marsupial moles and true moles
    4. Adaptations of the forelimb for burrowing [p. 112-113]
    5. Uses head and forefeet to burrow


Chrysochloris asiatica; Cape Golden Mole; Photographer: Dave Mangham; used with permission.  Copyright 2005 Dave Mangham/




Black and rufous giant elephant-shrews, or sengis, (Rhynchocyon petersi),  Smithsonian National Zoological Park, photographs by William Lukefahr

Family Macroscelididae [fig. 11.14]


  1. Ethiopian, North Africa
  2. long (especially distally) hind limbs, can move bipedally
  3. snout long, slender, movable at base
  4. large eyes, long ears
  5. generally diurnal
  6. insectivorous
  7. mouse (50 g) to squirrel-sized (200)



Order PROBOSCIDEA [Figs. 18.1-18.7]

Learn more about Proboscideans from


  1. largest land mammal
  2. upper incisor evergrowing
  3. long proboscis present with nostrils and finger-like projection at tip
  4. graviportal
  5. non-ruminants
  6. matriarchal
  7. musth (p. 302
  8. infrasound (p. 302, 335)

Know how to tell the two species of elephant apart. [Fig. 18.1]

 photograph by Rachel Ratcliff, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Loxodontia africana, the African elephant; Ethiopian zoogeographic region; up to 6000 kg; photograph by Rachel Ratcliff, taken in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Evidence for two species of African elephants published in Nature.  More from National Geographic.

elephantind.jpg (60493 bytes)

Elephas maximus-Indian or Asian elephant; Oriental zoogeographic region, 5000 k; click on image to enlarge; 2000 ZooNet/ Birmingham Zoo

Order SIRENIA [Figs. 18.13-18.17]

Learn more about sirenians from


  1. Dugongidae--dugongs
    1. Left: Wikipedia: Photo of Dugong dugon  near Marsa Alam (Egypt).by Julien Willam
    2. Right photo: Marine Mammal Commission Dugong (Photo: Mandy Etpison), note fluke-like tail
    3. Steller's sea cow
Dugong  Dugong
  1. Trichechidae--manatees
    1. learn more about manatees from SeaWorld and Wikipedia
    2. Save the Manatee
    3. Left: Manatee Surfacing to Breathe. Photo by Reid, Jim P. Source: WO-439-12 Publisher: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  National Image Library;
    4. Right: Florida Manatee (Photo: Patrick Rose, Save the Manatee Club). Note spatulate tail

Manatee  Manateee


L earn more about hyraxes (conies) from


Family Procaviidae [Figs. 18.8-18.12]  


  1. Ethiopian, North Africa and Middle East
  2. medium-sized (marmot-like, rabbit sized)
  3. soles of feet with elastic pads for climbing trees or rocks
    1. arboreal hyraxes [Dendrohyrax]
    2. terrestrial hyraxes [Procavia, Heterohyrax]
  4. rodent-like incisors
  5. mesaxonic feet (like perissodactyls)
  6. many structural features in common with proboscideans



Learn more about aardvarks (Afrikaans for "earth-pig") from

Orycteropus afer Aardvark, photograph by Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles, California Academy of Sciences.

Family Orycteropodidae (fig 14.11)


  1. Ethiopian
  2. monotypic [Orycteropus afer]
  3. no incisors or canines
  4. cheek teeth homodont, columnar, consisting of vertical hexagonal prisms of dentine  surrounding pulp tubules
  5. an insectivorous ungulate: most massive of termite eaters (pig-sized -- up to 82 kg)
  6. excavate burrows 2-3 m. long
  7. highly developed sense of smell 
  8. During dry months, dig up fleshy fruits of a cucurbit plant for water. May be a symbiotic relationship. Aardvarks disseminate the seeds


Orycteropus afer Aardvark, photograph by Scotto Bear


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