Evolution and systematics

The fossil record indicates that the genus Thryonomys existed in the central Sahara during the Pleistocene. Romer and Nesbit (1930) described fossil forms collected approximately 497 mi (800 km) from the Niger River as T. logani. Bate (1947) described another fossil form, T. arkelli, from Pleistocene deposits in Sudan. Walker (1975) mentioned that they occurred in Africa from the Upper Miocene to the recent era.

The African cane rats (family Thryonomyidae) includes only one genus Thryonomys and, although many varieties have been described, there are probably only two species, the greater cane rat (Thryonomys swinderianus) and the lesser cane rat (Thryonomys gregorianus). The name comes from the Greek thryon, which means rush, and mys, which means mouse. It makes reference to its common association with vegetation along waterways. Cane rats are more closely related to porcupines than to rats. At present, no subfamilies or subspecies are recognized.

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