Rodents are a family of small animals representing the largest order of placental mammals, meaning they produce viable young, not larvae.
Characteristics of rodents
The rodent is characterized by its prominent teeth on each of its jaws, which continue to grow throughout its life. They use them to feed, break shells, then dig galleries. However, they are also a formidable weapon when they feel threatened.
Rodents are quite small and stocky. They generally have short legs and a large tail. They are animals with a vegetarian diet for the majority, although some are omnivorous. Many species of rodents live in communities and communicate with each other. Litters, on the other hand, give birth to numerous undeveloped young, except for a few exceptions.
Rodents are found on all continents, except Antarctica. They easily adapted to their environment and even colonized Australia without human intervention!
The different families of rodents
Rodents and the species they represent are very numerous. The Rodentia order remains the largest family and brings together the best-known animals, such as mice, rats, squirrels, beavers, porcupines, but also hamsters and guinea pigs.
The second most popular and largest order is Lagomorpha which includes pikas, rabbits and hares.
There are more than 2,000 species of rodents on the globe and they are classified into 30 families. Today, around 300 have disappeared. 5 sub-orders are still relevant:
the Anomaluromorpha (flying squirrels, jumping hares); Castorimorpha (beavers, pocket gophers, spiny-pocketed kangaroo mice); the Hystricomorpha (gundis, but also the Hystricognathi such as mole rats, chinchilla rats, guinea pigs, pacas, etc.); the Myomorpha (with the Dipodoidea: jerboas and the Muroidea: hamsters, mice, voles, etc.); Sciuromorpha (mountain beaver, flying squirrels, squirrels, etc.).
While most rodents are harmless, others are considered pests by humans. Indeed, the Norway rat, the black rat, the gray mouse for example, destroy crops, attack food stocks and transport diseases as well as parasites.
The use of rodents by Man
Many rodents are eaten in different cultures. They are also used to make clothing, or as laboratory animals. It is also quite common to find them in homes as pets.
A number of rodent species have been accidentally introduced and have become invasive, threatening the existing ecosystem. A few are even scourges for certain native animals, such as island birds.
168 species of rodents are now in decline, but not having good press, the general public is losing interest. However, it only takes a few species to disappear to endanger 76% of the rodent population, since there is only one family!