Are Rabbits Rodents?
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For those who have a penchant for chocolate, the emblematic image of spring is that of rabbits and more precisely the Easter bunny 🍬 and his chocolate eggs! In popular belief, we often think of them as rodents , but do they really belong to this group of mammals?
The rodent ( Rodentien or Rodentia ) is the largest group of mammals, with 1500 of them (out of 4000 mammals). They are everywhere and on almost every continent. The size of rodents can vary from 7 grams (the African pygmy mouse) to the capybara which can weigh from 68 to 90 kilograms! But another group of mammals almost similar to rodents exists, the Lagomorphs . So find out in the rest of this article if the rabbit belongs to the group of rodents or lagomorphs!
1) Are Rabbits Rodents?
If asked to name the group of mammals to which biologists 👩🔬 assign rabbits, many would answer “rodents”. But that would be incorrect. Rabbits and hares are lagomorphs , members of the mammalian order Lagomorpha.
Rabbits and hares are more precisely part of the family Leporidae, one of the two families of the order Lagomorpha. However, if this question had been asked over 100 years ago, the answer would have been "Yes, rabbits are rodents." . Until the early 20th century, zoologists classified the rabbit and other lagomorphs (Lagomorpha) in the order Rodentia (Rodentia), which includes rats, mice, squirrels, and groundhogs.
Rabbits are gregarious burrowing animals with long ears, long hind legs and a short white fluffy tail ⚪. Although there are several genera and species within the Leporidae family, the animal that we usually keep as pets (and also serve to eat or use for its fur) is the European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.
2) What is a lagomorph?
A- The Lagomorphs
Lagomorphe is a Greek word meaning “hare-shaped”. Rabbits, hares and pikas are mammals that belong to the order Lagomorpha. There are two families in this order. These are the family Ochotonidae (Ochotonidae), which includes pikas, and the family Leporidae (Leporidae), which includes hares and rabbits.
Rabbits and hares are widely distributed and share more common characteristics, including large eyes, long ears and elongated limbs. Pikas have very different morphological characteristics than rabbits and hares, such as small eyes, round ears and short limbs. All of these species are specifically preyed upon by many types of mammals and bird species but have broad adaptations to avoid their predators.
B- The Food of Lagomorphs (Rabbits, Hares and Pikas)
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of lagomorph biology is diet. Although strictly vegetarian, they also eat their own feces . To increase their digestive efficiency, they recycle foods that have already passed through their digestive system. This habit is called coprophagia.
Rabbits excrete two types of droppings 💩 . After the first pass of a meal through the digestive system, rabbits pass soft, green "food" pellets, which they reabsorb as soon as they have fallen. During the second passage through the digestive system, the vitamins and other nutrients that were not absorbed the first time are assimilated.
The familiar piles of round, dark pellets that are often fed to pet rabbits are the true end products of rabbit digestion .
C- The Different Species
In North America, lagomorphs include several species including eight species of hares and rabbits and two species of pikas that inhabit scree slopes in the high western mountains.
D- The Habitat of Lagomorphs
Lagomorphs are animals native or introduced to all habitats , including forests, grasslands, wetlands, deserts, and mountains, on every continent except Antarctica.
On the rabbit side only, although many rabbit species live in grasslands, pastures, woodlands, mountainous areas, and similar habitats, these mammals also inhabit more specialized ecosystems.
Some species prefer to live in a single type of habitat , such as wetlands, marshes, estuaries, and even volcanic areas. Some also occupy more urban areas such as farms, parks, gardens and suburbs.
These mammals live in various regions of the world. They occur naturally in Eurasia , Africa , and North, Central, and South America . Man has also introduced 🚢 various species to other parts of the world as invasive species. Some species live in large regions or entire countries. Other species only occupy a very small area. Each species has a unique range and distribution.
3) What is a Rodent?
Rodents are mammals belonging to the largest and most diverse order of living mammals : rodents. Rodents have a pair of increasingly larger incisors in each jaw (upper and lower). Their body is sturdy with short limbs and a long tail, but there are exceptions. Additionally, the rodent order includes more than 30 families with some 1,600 species.
Rodents are very widespread and found on almost every continent 🌍 except Antarctica. They live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments. The order includes mice, rats, prairie dogs, squirrels, porcupines, guinea pigs, hamsters.
4) Rodents and Lagomorphs
Rabbits, hares and pikas differ from rodents in various respects. For example, they have four incisors (instead of two) and are almost entirely herbivorous (whereas many rodents also eat meat).
Rodents and lagomorphs are two groups of mammals. The most notable feature of these two types of mammals is the continuous growth of large, chisel-shaped incisors and the distinct diastema between the incisors and cheek teeth. Thanks to the presence of these incisors, rodents and lagomorphs have acquired the ability to gnaw.
This is why these two groups are collectively called "rodent mammals" . Rodents and lagomorphs cannot produce the enzyme cellulase, which helps digest cellulose from the plant materials they eat. Instead, they have certain bacterial species in their stomachs to carry out this task. Despite these similarities, there is a marked difference between rodents and lagomorphs.
A- What are the Similarities Between Rodents and Lagomorphs?
- Rodents and lagomorphs are mammals.
- Both groups eat plant matter 🌱 .
- However, they cannot produce cellulase enzymes and they have bacteria in their gut to aid in the digestion process.
- They have large, chisel-shaped incisors that grow continuously and a distinct diastema (gap between two teeth) between the incisors and cheek teeth.
- They also have hard enamel on the outer surface of the incisors and soft dentin behind
- In addition, they do not have canines 🐕🦺 .
B- What is the difference between rodents and lagomorphs?
The main difference between rodents and lagomorphs is that the front incisors of rodents are surrounded by a double layer of orange-colored pigmented enamel , while the front incisors of lagomorphs are surrounded by a single layer of unpigmented enamel .
Another big difference is that no rodent has more than two upper incisors and two lower incisors in total, while lagomorphs have four upper incisors in total . Mice, rats, prairie dogs, squirrels, porcupines, guinea pigs and hamsters are rodents while rabbits 🐰, pikas and hares are lagomorphs.
C- Summary: Rodents vs Lagomorphs
Rodents are the largest group of mammals that have pairs of constantly growing rootless incisor teeth, up and down. Rats, mice, porcupines, beavers, squirrels, groundhogs, pocket gophers, chinchillas are common rodents.
In contrast, lagomorphs are another group of mammals that possess two pairs of ever-growing rootless incisor teeth. The main difference between rodents and lagomorphs is that rodents have a double layer of pigmented enamel that only covers the front portion of the incisors, whereas lagomorphs' incisors are surrounded by a single layer of unpigmented enamel.
Now you won't be wrong when someone asks you if rabbits are rodents and you can even impress your friends! If you are a rabbit fan or your little bunny loves soft and fluffy things, you can now discover our rabbit soft toys 🐇 .