Appropriate fossil calibrations and tree constraints uphold the Mesozoic divergence of solenodons from other extant mammals Academic Article uri icon


  • The mammalian order Eulipotyphla includes four extant families of insectivorans: Solenodontidae (solenodons); Talpidae (moles); Soricidae (shrews); and Erinaceidae (hedgehogs). Of these, Solenodontidae includes only two extant species, which are endemic to the largest islands of the Greater Antilles: Cuba and Hispaniola. Most molecular studies suggest that eulipotyphlan families diverged from each other across several million years, with the basal split between Solenodontidae and other families occurring in the Late Cretaceous. By contrast, Sato et al. (2016) suggest that eulipotyphlan families diverged from each other in a polytomy ∼58.6 million years ago (Mya). This more recent divergence estimate for Solenodontidae versus other extant eulipotyphlans suggests that solenodons must have arrived in the Greater Antilles via overwater dispersal rather than vicariance. Here, we show that the young timetree estimates for eulipotyphlan families and the polytomy are due to an inverted ingroup-outgroup arrangement of the tree, the result of using Tracer rather than TreeAnnotator to compile interfamilial divergence times, and of not enforcing the monophly of well-established clades such as Laurasiatheria and Eulipotyphla. Finally, Sato et al.'s (2016) timetree includes several zombie lineages where estimated divergence times are much younger than minimum ages that are implied by the fossil record. We reanalyzed Sato et al.'s (2016) original data with enforced monophyly for well-established clades and updated fossil calibrations that eliminate the inference of zombie lineages. Our resulting timetrees, which were compiled with TreeAnnotator rather than Tracer, produce dates that are in good agreement with other recent studies and place the basal split between Solenodontidae and other eulipotyphlans in the Late Cretaceous.

altmetric score

  • 35.454

author list (cited authors)

  • Springer, M. S., Murphy, W. J., & Roca, A. L.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Springer, Mark S||Murphy, William J||Roca, Alfred L

publication date

  • April 2018