Placentation in mammals once grouped as insectivores
Review | Published: 14 October 2009
Anthony M. Carter*,1 and Allen C. Enders2
1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark and2Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Interest in insectivoran grade mammals has been reawakened by taxonomic changes that place tenrecs and golden moles in a new order and separate hedgehogs from moles, shrews and solenodons. This survey of their placentation shows there is great variation even within families. As an example three subfamilies of tenrec have been examined. The interhemal region is cellular hemomonochorial in Echinops and Microgale but endotheliochorial in Micropotamogale. Golden moles, which are placed in the same order, have hemodichorial placentation. Many insectivores have complex arrangements for histotrophic nutrition involving columnar trophoblast cells. These range from areolae in moles through complexly folded hemophagous regions in tenrecs to the trophoblastic annulus in shrews. Of these placental characters, few offer support to current phylogenies. However, the case for placing hedgehogs and gymnures in a separate order (Erinaceomorpha) is bolstered by the presence of interstitial implantation, amniogenesis by cavitation, a hemochorial barrier and a prominent spongy zone; these features do not occur in shrews, moles or solenodons (Soricomorpha). Three insectivoran grade mammals deserve close attention as they have been selected for genome sequencing. One of these, the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), has not been studied with current methodology and renewed investigation of this or the closely related genus Atelerix should be a priority.