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Temporal range: 56–0 Ma Late Paleocene–Holocene
|Clockwise from top left: capybara, springhare, golden-mantled ground squirrel, house mouse and beaver representing the suborders Hystricomorpha, Anomaluromorpha, Sciuromorpha, Myomorpha, and Castorimorpha, respectively.|
|Combined range of all rodent species (not including introduced populations)|
Rodents (from Latin rodere, "to gnaw") are mammals of the order Rodentia, which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. About 40% of all mammal species are rodents; they are found in vast numbers on all continents except Antarctica. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments.
Species can be arboreal, fossorial (burrowing), or semiaquatic. Well-known rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, hamsters, and capybaras. Other animals such as rabbits, hares, and pikas were once included with them, but are now considered to be in a separate order, the Lagomorpha.
Most rodents are small animals with robust bodies, short limbs, and long tails. They use their sharp incisors to gnaw food, excavate burrows, and defend themselves. Most eat seeds or other plant material, but some have more varied diets. They tend to be social animals and many species live in societies with complex ways of communicating with each other. Mating among rodents can vary from monogamy, to polygyny, to promiscuity. Many have litters of underdeveloped, altricial young, while others have precocial (relatively well developed) at birth.
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