Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Tupaiidae Gray, 1825

Only family contained within the mammalian Order Scandentia. The general vernacular for these animals is tree shrews; five genera and sixteen species. Historically the tupaiids were included within the Insectivora and then Primates; they are considered to be very primitive mammals and serve as basal models for both the mammals and the primates. Current evidence suggests a very long lineage for these animals; they may have separated from other mammals as far back as the Cretaceous. Some members are highly arboreal; others spend most of the time on the ground; most diurnal; quadrupedal. Small, mass 400 g or less. Dental formula: 2.1.3.3/3.1.3.3; primarily faunivorous with insects being the main prey taken; supplement with fruit, flower, and leaves. Territories and monogamy appear to be the rule.

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