The single surviving genus, Solenodon, contains two species. Solenodons now live in Haiti and Cuba. In sub-Recent and Recent times they were somewhat more widespread in distribution, but now even the Haitian and Cuban populations are declining rapidly and are in danger of extinction. Expanding human populations, the clearing of land for agriculture, and the introduction of dogs, cats, rats, and mongooses are all responsible for the decline of this group. Solenodons look like large, stout shrews. They have long snouts, small eyes, large, clawed feet and long nearly naked tails. Coat color varies from blackish to deep reddish brown. They have an incomplete zygomatic arch ( maxillary and squamosal roots are present but the jugal is absent), no auditory bulla, and a nearly flat skull. Solenodons also have an extra bone, the os proboscidis, which helps support the tip of the rostrum.

The dental formula of the two existing members of this family is 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 40. The anterior upper incisor is large. The second lower incisor has a deep groove. Solenodons produce toxic saliva, which is carried through this groove into the flesh of their victims. The molars are V-shaped, and the primary cusp is the paracone ( zalambdodont).

The main prey of solenodons is animals (including insects), but they sometimes eat plant material as well. Solenodons live in forests or brush, and are active at night. They are apparently social, with young sometimes remaining with the parents while subsequent litters are born and raised. Solenodons walk with an awkward gait and are incapable of jumping, but can run surprisingly fast and can climb.

Technical characters

References and literature cited:

Macdonald, D., ed. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, Facts On File Publications.

Nowak, R.M., and J.L. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th ed., Vol. I. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Vaughan, T.A. 1972. Mammalogy. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders Co.

Yates, T. L. 1984. Insectivores, elephant shrews, tree shrews, and dermopterans. Pp. 117-144 in Anderson, S. and J. K. Jones, Jr. (eds). Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y. xii+686 pp.


Deborah Ciszek (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate