The highly endangered sol-enodons, endemic to Cuba (Solenodon cubanus) and Hispaniola (S. paradoxus), comprise the only two surviving species of West Indian insectivores. Combined gene sequences (13.9 kilobases) from S. paradoxus established that solenodons diverged from other eulipotyphlan insectivores 76 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, which is consistent with vicariance, though also compatible with dispersal. A sequence of 1.6 kilobases of mitochondrial DNA from S. cubanus indicated a deep divergence of 25 million years versus the congeneric S. paradoxus, which is consistent with vicariant origins as tectonic forces separated Cuba and Hispaniola. Efforts to prevent extinction of the two surviving solenodon species would conserve an entire lineage as old or older than many mammalian orders.
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Acknowledgements We thank P. Hoffman and S. Warren for discussions on a range of matters relating to the Neoproterzoic and to surface albedo in general; J.C.G. Walker for sharing additional thoughts concerning the Mars analogy; and LMD/Paris for providing a congenial environment in which to carry out this work. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Acknowledgements This paper is dedicated to the memory of the Cuban naturalist Felipe Poey (1799–1891); see Supplementary Table 1 for details of the samples he collected in the 1850s. We thank C. Bell, A. Brandt, J. Brucksch, D. Castillo, N. Crumpler, M. Malasky, J. Minchoff, H. Otero, K. Scott, J. Tabler & E. Teeling. For samples, we thank the Parque Zoologico Nacional (ZOODOM) of the Dominican Republic; J. Chupasko at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology; and P. Giere at the Museum für Naturkunde, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. This publication has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.