; order Insectivora, suborder Lipotyphla)
A superfamily that comprises several extinct families (e.g. Adapiscoricidae and the Dimylidae) and the extant family Erinaceidae, with its two subfamilies, Erinaceinae (hedgehogs) and Echinosoricinae (moon rats). Erinaceoidea are insectivores, in the more advanced of which (hedgehogs) the hairs of the back are modified to form spines. The senses of sight and hearing are more acute than in many insectivores. The limbs have five digits (except in the genus Atelerix which has four on the hind limbs). Hedgehogs have some immunity to toxins, including snake bite, and chew toxic substances to make a froth with which they anoint their spines. Nocturnal animals feeding on small invertebrates, they are distributed throughout the Old World. In the Oligocene and Miocene, hedgehogs and moon rats were equally common in Europe; today the moon rats (e.g. Echinosorex gymnurus, the gymnure or Malayan moon rat) are confined to south-east Asia. There are about 10 genera, with 15 species.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.