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Harris’s antelope squirrelHarris’s antelope squirrelRodents are a very large group of mammals that includes mice, rats and squirrels, as well as beavers, dormice, lemmings and porcupines. They are usually small animals, with short legs and a tail that can be long or barely visible. All rodents have a set of grinding teeth and a single pair of long, sharp front teeth, called incisors, on both their upper and lower jaws. These incisors grow constantly and must be kept short by gnawing. Rodents have many young at once, and a short breeding cycle, meaning they reproduce extremely quickly.

Incisor teeth of a black ratIncisor teeth of a black rat

Gnawing teeth

Rodents feed mainly on plant material including nuts, seeds, fruits, leaves, bark and wood. Their front gnawing teeth keep growing all the time to avoid getting worn down by such a tough diet. Although rodents are mainly herbivorous, some may also eat insects or other small animals.

Prairie dogs in their burrowPrairie dogs in their burrow

Family life

There are about 1500 species of rodent. About 35% of all mammal species are rodents, making them the largest single group of mammals.

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