this clade may appear quite diverse but these mammals including elephants aardvarks tenrecs dugongs and hyraxes are more closely related to each other than originally thought. because the continent of africa is isolated from the americas and asia by water this group of mammals was able to diversify and fill many niches in the variety of ecosystems throughout the continent. afrotheria is relatively new concept and theyre still figuring out where to put it in the linnaeus system. i think theyre just calling it a superorder for now. Finally, Paenungulata is a clade, really the main one, from within the afrotheran mammals, and is comprised of hyraxes, elephants, and dugongs.
It might be a little tricky to imagine all of these different pieces abstractly, so I’m going to run through a little history of mammalian evolution for you, from the first placentals to Paenungulata.
So mammals’ ancestors, the synapsids, evolved a really, really long time ago, branching off almost immediately from reptiles about 320 million years ago. For some time though, you couldn’t tell. They pretty much looked and behaved more-or-less like reptiles. The very first mammals were Prototheria, like platypuses, laying eggs and not really following most mammal rules and just looking plain weird. That went on for a while.
By the time the mid-Triassic period (250mya) rolled around, and mammals finally started looking more like mammals. This