Palaeoryctidae or Palaeoryctoidea ("old/stony digger", from Greek: ὀρύκτης, oryctes) is an extinct group of relatively non-specialized non-placental 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]

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous–Paleocene
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cimolesta
Family: Palaeoryctidae
Winge, 1917


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 Lepticids. 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 paleoryctids 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). Sister groups include: Kennalestidae, Nanocuridae, Pantolestidae, and Zalambdalestidae.[1]

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.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Palaeoryctidae". The Paleobiology Database. Retrieved 17 January 2010.[permanent dead link]
  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)
  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. ^ Prothero, Donald R. (2016-11-15). The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals. Princeton University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9781400884452.


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