Erinaceidae is a family in the order Eulipotyphla. Until recently, it was assigned to the order Erinaceomorpha, which has been subsumed with the paraphyletic Soricomorpha into Eulipotyphla. Eulipotyphla has been shown to be monophyletic;[2] Soricomorpha is paraphyletic because Soricidae shared a more recent common ancestor with Erinaceidae than with other soricomorphs.[3]

Erinaceidae contains the well-known hedgehogs (subfamily Erinaceinae) of Eurasia and Africa and the gymnures or moonrats (subfamily Galericinae) of South-east Asia. This family was once considered part of the order Insectivora, but that polyphyletic order is now considered defunct.[1]


Erinaceids are generally shrew-like in form, with long snouts and short tails. They are, however, much larger than shrews, ranging from 10–15 cm in body length and 40-60 grams in weight, in the case of the short-tailed gymnure, up to 26–45 cm and 1-1.4 kilograms in the moonrat. All but one species have five toes in each foot, in some cases with strong claws for digging, and they have large eyes and ears. Hedgehogs possess hair modified into sharp spines to form a protective covering over the upper body and flanks, while gymnures have only normal hair. Most species have anal scent glands, but these are far better developed in gymnures, which can have a powerful odor.[4]

Erinaceids are omnivorous, with the major part of their diet consisting of insects, earthworms, and other small invertebrates. They also eat seeds and fruit, and occasionally bird's eggs, along with any carrion they come across. Their teeth are sharp and suited for impaling invertebrate prey. The dental formula for erinaceids is: 2-

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, but gymnures are less so, and may be active during the day. Many species live in simple burrows, while others construct temporary nests on the surface from leaves and grass, or shelter in hollow logs or similar hiding places. Erinaceids are solitary animals outside the breeding season, and the father plays no role in raising the young.[4]

Female erinaceids give birth after a gestation period of around six to seven weeks. The young are born blind and hairless, although hedgehogs begin to sprout their spines within 36 hours of birth.


Erinaceids are a relatively primitive group of placental mammals, having changed little since their origin in the Eocene. The so-called 'giant hedgehog' (actually a gymnure) Deinogalerix, from the Miocene of Gargano Island (part of modern Italy), was the size of a large rabbit, and may have eaten vertebrate prey or carrion, rather than insects.[5]


There are 12 described genera and 43 described species of erinaceid.


  1. 1 2 Hutterer, R. (2005). "Family Erinaceidae". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 212–219. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. Robin MD Beck; Olaf RP Bininda-Emonds; Marcel Cardillo; Fu-Guo Robert Liu; Andy Purvis (2006). "A higher level MRP supertree of placental mammals". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 6: 93. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-6-93. PMC 1654192Freely accessible. PMID 17101039.
  3. Roca, A.L., G.K. Bar-Gal, E. Eizirik, K.M. Helgen, R. Maria, M.S. Springer, S.J. O'Brien, and W.J. Murphy (2004). "Mesozoic origin for West Indian insectivores". Nature. 429 (6992): 649–651. doi:10.1038/nature02597. PMID 15190349.
  4. 1 2 Wroot, Andrew (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 750–757. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
  5. Savage, RJG & Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0-8160-1194-X.
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