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INTRODUCTION

If it were not for the rodents, almost all mammals on Home-Earth would belong to Laurasiatheria. This diverse clade today includes Eulipotyphla (the "Real True Insectivores"), Chiroptera (bats incl. flying foxes) which alone makes up a quarter of mammal species, Pholidota (pangolins), Carnivora (nearly all carnivorous mammals that remain today), Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates) and Cetartiodactyla (the highly diverse even-toed ungulates and whales).

This diversity is not replicated in Spec, a world full of dinosaurs and metatheres that also retains cimolestans and has brought forth a peculiar primate diversity. In that timeline, only two rather small clades form the sistergroup of Supraprimates and are therefore together called Laurasiatheria. (It is still not clear if Laurasiatheria existed before the K-T boundary.)

EREBIDAE (Hellrats)

Home-Earth's Eulipotyphla is a large, diverse clade that includes the "Real True Insectivores" – shrews, moles, hedgehogs and almiquis. Spec has zams instead of shrews, {whatever} instead of moles, and tenrecs instead of hedgehogs. It has, however, something quite similar to our timeline's almiquis: the hellrats.

The probably five species of hellrats are distributed in the Americas, from the forest frontier in the north to the Amazon in the south (they have so far not managed to cross this mightiest of rivers), including certain Caribbean islands. They are not fond of climbing and spend most of their time on the ground, thus avoiding competition with the scansorial not-a-coon and opossums and the rather strictly arboreal teddies.

A noteworthy feature of the hellrats is a peculiar toxin in their saliva. It is used in attack as well as defense – not many mattiraptors manage to kill a hellrat before it bites them. This explains the slow growth (for a placental), slow reproduction (1 to 3 young per female and year) and stress-poor life of these remarkable mammals.

Stinking Hellrat (Erebus olens)

Hellrat

The stinking hellrat (Erebus olens) is the northernmost species of the group. It has a trunk which it uses to probe for prey in leaf litter and mud, but in general it eats just about anything that moves, up to almost its own size (25 cm in length without tail), plus berries, fallen fruit and mushrooms. Stinking hellrats hibernate like the northern species of tenrecs, under a large heap of leaf litter.

CHOEROSORICIDAE (Pigshrews)

These cryptic mammals occur all over the Old World and North America – finding them is another matter, because they are nocturnal and spend the day in deep, well-concealed burrows, which they dig with the long, broad claws on their forelimbs. Ironically similar to the bandicoots of Home-Earth Australia, marsupials that live one and a half worlds away, they get most of their food by digging in leaf litter and soft soils, even the sand of semideserts, for insects, their larvae, earthworms, snails and subterranean mushrooms; fallen fruits, berries and eggs, sometimes even small mammals and lizards are not refused either. Some species have evolved a distinct taste for shoots and young leaves.

Common Pigshrew (Choerosorex perameloides)

Pigshrews

Up to 40 cm long without its tail, the common pigshrew (Choerosorex perameloides) is larger than most mammals of western and central Europe. It has large ears and many long whiskers; both help it find its prey when it sits on the forest floor and shoves leaf litter and earth away by alternating movements of its forelimbs. Common pigshrews hibernate in their burrows. In late spring the females give birth to up to 5 young.

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