Erinaceidae is a family of small mammals that include spiny hedgehogs (Erinaceinae)，hairy moonrats and gymnures (Galericinae). Hedgehogs (erinaceines) are small, spiny nocturnal mammals that live throughout Eurasia and Africa.The closest living relatives to hedgehogs are moonrats and gymnures (galericines) which are confined to the damp forests in Southeast Asia. They are the oldest known living mammals with their evolutionary history dating back to the Cretaceous period. Their phylogenetic relationships, however, remained to be controversial.
To test previous phylogenetic hypotheses, Dr. JIANG XueLong’s research group of the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dr. Gina C. Gould of the University of Connecticut reconstructed the phylogeny of living erinaceids using morphological and molecular approaches. The results support that ancient origins for the galericines is congruent with the fossil record, and reveal significant incongruencies between the genes and the morphological characters. The morphological similarities between the African hedgehogs (genus Paraechinus) and the long-eared hedgehogs (genus Hemiechinus) are probably the result of convergent adaptation to arid environment. The researchers also reveal that the nomenclature does not yet reflect the phylogenetic relationships or the depth of their genetic diversity.
The research has been published in PLoS ONE: 2012, 7 (6) e39304. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0039304). The paper has been recognized by its reviewer to be a great contribution to the field of mammalian systematics.