insectivore (ĭnsĕkˈtəvōrˌ) [key], term broadly given to any insect-eating animal or plant. The term also refers to mammals of the former order Insectivora, in which was included the shrew, mole, hedgehog, tenrec, and solenodon. Members of this group, which were thought to be closely related to the earliest placental mammals, are small animals, ranging from 2 to 16 in. (5–40 cm) in length; they are generally quite active, are generally nocturnal, and feed on a variety of small animals, particularly worms and insects. The other groups of placental mammals, including the primates, the order to which humans belong, were considered to have evolved as radiations from a primitive insectivore stock; the tenrecs, for example, have certain anatomical features in common with the more primitive marsupials, or pouched mammals. Those former insectivores that were not reclassified in another order are now included in the orders Erinaceomorpha (hedgehogs) and Soricomorpha (shrews, moles, and solenodons).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.