Korth, William W. Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology, Penfield, New York.
- Fossil history
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The mammalian order consisting of the rodents, often known as the gnawing mammals. This is the most diverse group of mammals in the world, consisting of over 2000 species, more than 40% of the known species of mammals on Earth today. Rodents range in size from mice, weighing only a few grams, to the Central American capybara, which is up to 130 cm (4 ft) in length and weighs up to 79 kg (170 lb) [Fig. 1]. Rodents have been found in virtually every habitat, from arctic tundra to tropical rainforests, and on every continent except Antarctica. Rodents have adapted to nearly every mode of life, including semiaquatic swimming (beavers and muskrats), gliding (“flying” squirrels), burrowing (gophers and African mole rats), arboreal (dormice and tree squirrels), and hopping (kangaroo rats and jerboas). Nearly all rodents are herbivorous, with a few exceptions that are partially insectivorous to totally omnivorous, such as the domestic rat. Rodents usually live in small family groups, but the naked mole rats of Africa live in large colonies with a distinct social structure that is similar to that of insect colonies with different classes of members. The great adaptability and rapid evolution and diversity of rodents are mainly due to their short gestation periods (only 3 weeks in some mice) and rapid turnover of generations. See also: Mammalia
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