"Lipotyphlan" phylogeny based on the growth hormone receptor gene: a reanalysis

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Mar;30(3):778-88. doi: 10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00246-X.


From an evolutionary perspective, "insectivores" have been one of the most important mammalian groups for over a century. Morphologists have successively pruned flying lemurs, elephant shrews, and tree shrews from Insectivora, but have retained chrysochlorids, tenrecs, erinaceids, soricids, talpids, and solenodontids in crown-group Lipotyphla. With the appearance of large molecular data sets, the monophyly of Lipotyphla has proved untenable. Rather, an emerging consensus is that Lipotyphla is a diphyletic taxon comprised of two monophyletic groups, Afrosoricida and Eulipotyphla. A recent paper by Malia et al. [Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 24 (2002) 91-101] challenged this view and argued that "While the data [Growth Hormone Receptor] were unable to support the orders Lipotyphla, Eulipotyphla, and Tenrecoidea [= Afrosoricida] this was most likely due to the polyphyly of these groups and not to problems associated with the gene itself such as saturation or highly divergent sequences em leader " (p. 100). We analyzed Malia et al.'s original GHR data set (at both nuclear and protein level), an expanded GHR data set that included 49 additional sequences, and a concatenated data set that included GHR, BRCA1, vWF, and A2AB for a diverse selection of lipotyphlan taxa. Although protein analyses proved inconclusive, all analyses at the DNA level clearly show that the statement of Malia et al. is erroneous. Indeed, likelihood analyses with GHR and with the concatenated data set provide more support for Eulipotyphla and Afrosoricida than for competing hypotheses. These results also highlight the potential pitfalls of single-gene and parsimony-only analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Classification
  • Databases as Topic
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Shrews / genetics*


  • Receptors, Somatotropin