This month’s first special project contains pictures of various rodents, members of the order Rodentia.  Although mice and rats may be more likely to come to mind when we think of rodents, the more beloved squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, beavers, and porcupines (beloved porcupines?) are also members of this order. Scientists define rodents by their incisors which continue to grow throughout their lives and by their lack of canine teeth (Veeerhallen, 1999), but I define them as being super cute and cuddly. Rodentia is the largest mammalian order on the planet, accounting for approximately 40% of the world’s mammal species. In North America they are even more ubiquitous with over 200 species in the Rodentia order accounting for 60% of land animal species on the continent. Squirrels are the most common and the major classifications of squirrels (e.g., flying squirrels, tree squirrels, ground squirrels) are grouped not based on physiological differences but based on their behaviors (Michaels, 2014). So be still little one, or a naturalist is likely to come along and classify you!

No doubt squirrels are the stars of the Rodentia show. Although they may be low hanging fruit for wildlife photographers (like birds on sticks), we thank God for them because in the absence of their curious eyes poking out from between the snow covered branches, winter hikes would be a bit lonelier.

In addition to members of the order Rodentia, we have a couple of bonus pictures of mountain cottontail rabbits on the Other Furry Friends page. Formerly classified in the order Rodentia, rabbits are now classified within the order Lagomorpha as they were determined by the strictest scientific methodologies and decades of research to be just too darned cute to be included in the same order as rats. Despite being the Pluto of the Rodentia order, for practical purposes rabbits are often still grouped with their less fuzzy friends (Veeerhallen, 1999).  Baby rabbits are called kittens (how cute is that?!?) while the males are called bucks and the females does (Diffen, 2015). It must be confusing to be a rabbit. Have you ever thought you could sneak up on a rabbit from behind? Unlikely because they have peripheral vision greater than 180 degrees so a rabbit can see behind himself or herself without turning which of course comes in very handy for an animal deemed delicious by numerous predators. Not to worry, with four to eight litters per year producing three to eight young each, rabbits aren't going to disappear anytime soon.

References

Michaels, P. A. (2014). North American squirrels. Retrieved from http://greennature.com/article168.html

Diffen (2015). Hare versus rabbit. Retrieved from http://www.diffen.com/difference/Hare_vs_Rabbit

Veeerhallen, V. (1999). Encyclopedia of rabbits and rodents. New York, NY: Reavco.
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