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A to Z of rodents

Incisor teeth of a black ratRodents make up a very large group of mammals. They are usually small animals with short legs. Rodents have many young at once. They also reproduce extremely quickly. Most kinds of rodent that live in cold or temperate lands hibernate in their burrows. All rodents have a pair of long, sharp front teeth, called incisors, on both their upper and lower jaws as well as a set of grinding teeth. These incisors grow constantly and must be kept short by gnawing.

Syrian hamster filling its cheek pouches

North American beaver


Beavers are large rodents. They live in and around rivers that run through dense forests. They feed on twigs, roots and leaves. With their webbed hind feet and broad, flat tails, beavers are excellent swimmers. They use their huge, razor-sharp teeth to gnaw through wood. They fell trees for use in constructing dams to make lakes. The lake around their shelter, or lodge, protects the family from predators.

Some people think that lemmings willingly jump off cliffs to their deaths. In fact, lemmings can swim and may dive into a body of water when they migrate.

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