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Temporal range: Late Campanian - Early Oligocene 83.5–28.4 Ma
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Placentalia (?)
Order: Palaeoryctida
Family: Palaeoryctidae
Winge, 1917

Palaeoryctidae or Palaeoryctoidea ("old/stony digger", from Greek: ὀρύκτης, oryctes) is an extinct group of relatively non-specialized eutherian mammals that lived in North America during the late Cretaceous and took part in the first placental evolutionary radiation together with other early mammals such as the leptictids.[2] Some sources classified the Palaeoryctidae as a superfamily.[3][4]


From a near-complete skull of the genus Palaeoryctes found in New Mexico, it is known that palaeoryctids were small, shrew-like insectivores with an elongated snout similar to that of the leptictids. However, in contrast to the latter, little is known about palaeoryctids' postcranial anatomy (the skeleton without the skull).[2]

Where the leptictids were short-lived, the palaeoryctids seem to have been ancestors of Eocene species. While their dental morphology still indicate a mostly insectivorous diet, it, to some extent, also relate to Eocene carnivores such as creodonts.[2]


The relationship between this archaic group and other insectivorous mammals is uncertain.[5][6] Palaeoryctidae was originally assigned to the now-abandoned grouping Insectivora by Sloan and Van Valen (1965) and more recently to Eutheria by Scott et al. (2002).[7]

Generally speaking Palaeoryctidae has been used as a wastebasket taxon, but it is now considered obsolete; the only group of insectivorous mammals now considered valid is the order Eulipotyphla.[8]

According to a 2022 study by Bertrand et al., palaeoryctids are basal placental mammals.[9]

A 2024 study found shared cranial details between palaeoryctids and leptictids, suggesting a possible close relationship.[10]


  1. ^ Rankin, Brian D.; Holroyd, Patricia A. (October 2014). Sues, Hans-Dieter (ed.). "Aceroryctes dulcis , a new palaeoryctid (Mammalia, Eutheria) from the early Eocene of the Wasatch Formation of southwestern Wyoming, USA". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 51 (10): 919–926. doi:10.1139/cjes-2014-0101. ISSN 0008-4077.
  2. ^ a b c Agustí & Antón 2002, p. 5
  3. ^ C., McKenna, Malcolm; Xiangxu., Xue; Mingzhen., Zhou (1984). "Prosarcodon lonanensis, a new Paleocene micropternodontid palaeoryctoid insectivore from Asia. American Museum novitates; no. 2780". hdl:2246/5265. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Mammals: An Outline of Theriology. 1976.
  5. ^ Gingerich 1982, p. 38
  6. ^ History, Carnegie Museum of Natural (1995). Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
  7. ^ "PBDB Taxon". paleobiodb.org. Retrieved 2024-07-10.
  8. ^ Prothero, Donald R. (2016-11-15). The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals. Princeton University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9781400884452.
  9. ^ Bertrand, O. C.; Shelley, S. L.; Williamson, T. E.; Wible, J. R.; Chester, S. G. B.; Flynn, J. J.; Holbrook, L. T.; Lyson, T. R.; Meng, J.; Miller, I. M.; Püschel, H. P.; Smith, T.; Spaulding, M.; Tseng, Z. J.; Brusatte, S. L. (2022). "Brawn before brains in placental mammals after the end-Cretaceous extinction". Science. 376 (6588): 80–85. Bibcode:2022Sci...376...80B. doi:10.1126/science.abl5584. hdl:20.500.11820/d7fb8c6e-886e-4c1d-9977-0cd6406fda20.
  10. ^ Wible, John R.; Bertrand, Ornella C. (2024-07-08). "Basicranial Anatomy of Leptictis haydeni Leidy, 1868 (Mammalia, Eutheria, Leptictidae)". Annals of Carnegie Museum. 90 (1). doi:10.2992/007.090.0101. ISSN 0097-4463.


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