What Is the Closest Relative to A Hedgehog?

Small, spiny mammals known as hedgehogs are noted for their unusual look and aggressive behavior.

While they can appear to be isolated and distinct throughout the animal kingdom, they actually have near cousins who have undergone a similar evolutionary process, such as Moonrats.

We can learn more about hedgehogs’ evolutionary history and ecological value by examining their nearest relatives.

In this post, we’ll look at the classification of hedgehogs, pinpoint the closest living relatives of these intriguing animals, and talk about their evolutionary connections.

By doing this, we can understand the complex web of life and the interdependence of various species in the vast evolutionary tapestry.

Hedgehog Taxonomy

Hedgehogs are members of the order Erinaceomorpha and the class Mammalia.

Hedgehogs and their closest cousins, such as moonrats and gymnures, are members of the order Erinaceomorpha.

Hedgehogs are grouped into the family Erinaceidae within the order Erinaceomorpha.

Hedgehogs belonging to the family Erinaceidae come in many distinct species and are widespread around the world.

The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), the African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), and the long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus) are a few examples of well-known species.

Hedgehogs are distinguished by their prickly quills, which are altered keratin-based hairs. As a defense against predators, these quills are used. In addition, hedgehogs have a spherical body, tiny ears, and a pointy snout.

Hedgehogs have unique traits and evolutionary adaptations that mark them apart, despite sharing several taxonomic classifications with their closest relatives.

Closest Relatives of Hedgehog in the Animal Kingdom

The order Erinaceomorpha, which consists of moonrats (family Tupaiidae) and gymnures (family Galericidae), has the closest animal relative of hedgehogs.

These three populations are related morphologically and have a common ancestor.

Moonrats

These arboreal creatures are located in Southeast Asia and are also referred to as colugos or flying lemurs.

Despite their name, they are actually members of the Tupaiidae family and not true rats or lemurs.

Hedgehogs and moonrats both have spherical forms and furry coverings on their bodies. They can float in the air thanks to a patagium, a membrane that spreads between their limbs.

Gymnures

Gymnures, also known as moonrats or hedgehog rats, are members of the Galericidae family.

Southeast Asia is home to these little, spiky creatures. Gymnures look like hedgehogs and have spines that mimic those of hedgehogs, but they can’t roll completely into a ball as hedgehogs can.

They eat mostly insects and other invertebrates and have lengthened snouts.

Although moonrats and gymnures have certain traits in common with hedgehogs, they differ substantially in terms of behavior, habitat, and ecological adaptations.

However, their placement in the Erinaceomorpha group emphasizes their close evolutionary kinship with hedgehogs.

Evolutionary Relationships of Hedgehogs

Hedgehog phylogenetic history and genomic analysis can be used to understand their evolutionary relationships.

The order Erinaceomorpha includes hedgehogs and their nearest cousins, moonrats, and gymnures.

It is thought that during the Cretaceous era, some 100 million years ago, this order split apart from other placental mammals.

Hedgehogs are believed to be significantly more related to gymnures than to moonrats based on genetic and molecular research.

This shows that compared to moonrats, hedgehogs and gymnures have a more recent shared ancestor.

Additional evolutionary research has revealed that the order Soricomorpha and the order Erinaceomorpha, which contains hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures, are related.

Shrews and moles, who are also tiny insectivorous mammals, are classified as Soricomorpha. This implies an intricate evolutionary connection.

Hedgehogs’ shared origins, shared adaptations, and shared ecological niches can be better understood by understanding their evolutionary ties.

Our knowledge of hedgehog evolution and their position within the larger mammalian tree of life is continually being improved by new studies in genetics and other fields.

Shared Characteristics with Closest Relatives

Hedgehogs and their closest cousins, moonrats and gymnures, have some common traits that result from their shared heritage and evolutionary path within the order Erinaceomorpha.

Body Type

Gymnures, moonrats, and hedgehogs all have rounder bodies that are similar to one another. They can move around their separate environments because of their small bodies and robust limbs.

Spines

The bodies of all three types are covered in protecting spines or quills. Moonrats and gymnures cannot roll into an entire ball; however, hedgehogs can because they have more flexible spines that have developed for defense.

Insectivorous Dietary Habits

Insects and other invertebrates make up the majority of the diets of hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures.

With specialized teeth and jaws made for catching and eating their prey, they have adjusted to an insectivorous diet.

Nocturnal Behavior

Gymnures, moonrats, and hedgehogs are all typically nocturnal, meaning that nighttime is when they are most active.

They can take benefit from their ecological niche and avoid enemies owing to this behavior.

Similar Skeletal Structure

Gymnures, hedgehogs, and moonrats all have similar skeletal structures, including the existence of collarbones (clavicles) and the auditory bulla, a specialized part of the skull.

Hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures all have these traits in common, but it’s crucial to remember that they also have particular adaptations and distinctive characteristics that set them apart within the order of Erinaceomorpha.

These shared traits reveal their ties in evolutionary time as well as the selective pressures that have defined their individual lives and ecological functions.

Common Ancestry and Divergence

Within the order Erinaceomorpha, gymnures, moonrats, and hedgehogs have a shared lineage, proving that they all descended from a single ancestor.

Although the precise features of this shared ancestor are still being investigated, it is thought to have lived during the Cretaceous period some 100 million years ago.

Hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures all have a common ancestor but have undergone divergent evolution, giving rise to their various species and special characteristics.

They have evolved in terms of their physical traits, habits, and ecological niches over time in order to occupy various habitats and carry out particular ecological functions.

Hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures have similar body types and spines, but they also have distinctive characteristics that are tailored to their particular surroundings and way of existence.

For security, hedgehogs, unlike moonrats or gymnures, have evolved the ability to curl tightly into a ball.

Hedgehogs lack a membrane called a patagium, which moonrats have, and which enables them to glide through the air.

These species’ divergence is caused by a confluence of genetic modifications, environmental conditions, and natural selection.

Each species has developed characteristics and habits that help it survive and reproduce successfully in its own ecological niche.

Insights into the evolutionary processes that have created these species and contributed to the diversity of life on our planet can be gained from research on the shared ancestry and divergence of hedgehogs, moonrats, and gymnures.

Conclusion

Moonrats and gymnures, which together make up the order Erinaceomorpha, are hedgehogs’ closest relatives.

These three populations all have a similar ancestry and share traits like comparable body types and spines.

However, they have also experienced divergent evolution, which has produced unique adaptations and traits suited to their individual habitats and lifestyles.

Hedgehogs’ closest relatives can be studied to learn more about their evolutionary history, the relationships between different animal species, and the amazing processes that have contributed to the diversity of life on Earth.

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