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Afrotheria is a clade of mammals, the living members of which belong to groups that are either currently living in Africa or of African origin: golden moles, elephant shrews, tenrecs, aardvarks, hyraxes, elephants, sea cows, and the extinct Desmostylia. They share few anatomical features but many are partly or entirely African in their distribution. This probably reflects the fact that Africa was an island continent through the early Cenozoic. Because the continent was isolated by water, Laurasian groups such as insectivores, rabbits, and ungulates could not become established. Instead, the niches occupied by those groups were filled by tenrecs, hyraxes and elephants that evolved from the ancestral afrothere. This adaptive radiation may have occurred in response to the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction.

The common ancestry of these animals was not recognized until the late 1990s. Historically, the Paenungulata had been linked to other ungulates; the golden mole, tenrecs, and elephant shrews with the traditional (and polyphyletic) Insectivora; and the aardvarks with the pangolins and the xenarthrans within the invalid taxon Edentata. Continuing work on the molecular. Continuing work on the molecular and morphological diversity of afrotherian mammals has provided ever increasing support for their common ancestry.

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