Evolution and systematics

The relationships among the numerous insectivore species is far from settled. Evolutionary biologists have not settled the question of whether the families listed within the order Insectivora are monophyletic (sharing a common ancestor species) or polyphyletic (deriving from several separate origins). Presently, the solenodontids appear to be most closely related to several species of extinct shrews, the Nesophonti-dae, native to various islands of the Antilles, while both families share similarities among the family Tenrecidae (the tenrecs of Madagascar and mainland Africa) and the subfamily Potamogalinae (otter shrews of mainland Africa).

The Solenodontidae show an array of primitive mammalian features, but whether they represent a relict family from the mainlands, little changed, or are the derived descendants of smaller colonizing insectivores that evolved to "giant" size on the islands, is not clear. These ancestors most likely rafted on vegetation from the mainlands of the Americas to Cuba and Hispaniola as long ago as the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic eras. The Solenodontidae survived on the islands without competition from more advanced mammal types.

Solonodontidae contains the living genus Solenodon; two living species, the Hispaniolan or Haitian solenodon, S. paradoxus, in Hispaniola, and the Cuban solenodon or "almiqui," S. cubanus, in Cuba. Also included in this family are two recently extinct (late Pleistocene to present) species, Marcano's solenodon, S. marcanoi, in Hispaniola, and Arredondo's solenodon, S. arredondoi, in Cuba.

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