There are more than 3,000 species of rodents scattered throughout the world today. It is estimated that rodents make up more than a third of all living mammal species. Most people are familiar with terrestrial rodents but, believe it or not, rodents inhabit just about every environment on the planet. Some live in burrows in the ground while others have the ability to fly from tree to tree with ease. Some are aquatic, while others are arboreal. No matter where they live, even in the water, rodents are adapted to all terrestrial habitats and all have the same general characteristics.
What Is a Rodent?
A rodent is a warm-blooded animal of the order Rodentia, characterized by a furry body and large, gnawing incisor teeth that continue to grow throughout the animal's life. These teeth are used for cutting, biting, and defense. Rodents have well-developed ears, are typically small in size, and may feed on anything from plants to fish. They may produce many litters of young each year and, in some parts of the world, rodents are considered pests. In the United States, most rodents are known to destroy crops and surplus food supplies, and carry disease. Examples of rodents include: beavers, rats, and squirrels.
The Value of Rodents
While most rodents in the United States are known for destroying crops and carrying disease, others such as beavers are valued for their ability to build dams that help to prevent erosion. Some rodents such as the South American Chinchilla are farm-raised for their luxurious fur. A farm-raised chinchilla fur coat can cost thousands of dollars; it is not uncommon for a wild chinchilla fur coat to cost up to $100,000. In other parts of the world, a rodent may be considered a delicacy. Some rodents are important to science as well. Albino strains of the rat and mouse are an extremely significant part of biological testing. For some, a rodent can make the perfect house pet. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and white mice are popular among small children and adolescents.