Insectivora, an order of small, primitive mammals that includes the moles, shrews, hedgehogs, and several related animals. Members of the order are called insectivores. The name refers to the fact that they eat insects. Insectivores live in all temperate and tropical climates except Australia and the southern two-thirds of South America.
Most insectivores have soft grayish or brownish fur, but the hedgehog has spiny bristles. Insectivores have small, stout bodies; long snouts; and small, sharp teeth. The eyes are very small. There are usually five claws on each of the four feet. Some members of the order are burrowing animals. Others live above ground and can climb trees and swim. Usually, insectivores sleep very little and have short lives. Insectivores generally feed at night, and some species eat from two to three times their weight every 24 hours.
Bones of insectivores have been found that date back nearly 100,000,000 years, showing that they are of the original stock of mammals from which modern species descended. Generally, insectivores have changed very little since they first appeared on earth.
There are six living families of the order Insectivora that are generally recognized by zoologists. These families are Chrysochloridae, which is made up of the golden moles; Erinaceidae, to which the hedgehogs belong; Solenodontidae, which is made up of the solenodons; Soricidae, which is made up of the true shrews; Talpidae, which is made up of the true moles; and Tenrecidae, to which the tenrecs belong.