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Rodent Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Rodents are a type of mammal that can be found in a wide variety of different species. You may have seen rodents in the wild or you might even have one as a pet. Read on to learn more about these interesting animals.

Warm and Fuzzy or Terrifying?

When you hear the word 'rodent,' what do you think of? If you imagine squirrels, chipmunks and guinea pigs, you might have a warm fuzzy feeling. How about rats and mice? These animals often create a different feeling, making some people scream in terror and run for their lives! Did you know there is even a rodent the size of a dog? No matter how you feel about these creatures, rodents make up the largest group of mammals that roam the Earth. Read on to learn more about this diverse group of animals.

Squirrels are often considered cute rodents
Squirrel

Rodent Characteristics

There are over 2000 different rodent species occupying our planet. One characteristic they all have in common, from the porcupine to the naked mole rat, is a pair of large chisel-like front teeth. These are incisor teeth, and they never stop growing! Giving many rodents a ''buck-toothed'' appearance, these teeth are specialized for gnawing and actually sharpen themselves. The beaver is certainly a prime example of a toothy tree-chewer.

When it comes to size and appearance, however, differences in rodents are extreme. Mice are the tiniest of the group, making it easy for them to sneak into a house and terrorize the occupants. At the other extreme, remember that dog-sized rodent we mentioned? The capybara of Central and South America takes the honor of largest rodent and can weigh up to 140 pounds!

The capybara is the largest rodent
Capybara

Depending on the type, rodents can be active at all times of the day. Many are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night - which you may know if you have a hamster. Beavers also do their important tree-chewing work at night, and mice and rats slink around during dark hours as well. Other rodents are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. Squirrels and gerbils are two species of rodents that provide fun daytime watching experiences.

Where are Rodents Found?

Rodents live everywhere on earth except Antarctica, New Zealand and a few islands. They are found in the desert, the mountains, lakes and rivers. They occupy towns and cities too, and often make themselves unwanted house guests. This can make them a nuisance for people, as rodents carry disease and also ruin crops for farmers.

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