If rats could high five each other and say, "I'm No. 1!," they might have reason to do so now, since a new study has just named them the best biters in the rodent world.
The findings, published in the latest PLoS ONE, reveal that rats bite more effectively and efficiently than other rodents do. They have evolved to gnaw with their front teeth and chew with their back teeth better than any other rodent.
That's one reason why these animals are so successful worldwide.
Co-author Nathan Jeffery of the University of LIverpool's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, was quoted as saying in a press release, “Mice and rats belong to a group of rodents called the myomorphs, which are amongst the most successful of all mammals. With over 1,000 species, comprising nearly a quarter of all known mammal species, they live in a wide variety of habitats on every continent, except Antarctica."
Jeffery and his colleagues designed a computer model to simulate the bites of rodents, plugging in data about squirrels, guinea pigs and other members of the order Rodentia. Rat muscles turn out to have evolved the most efficient biting mechanisms, with mice a close second. Some rodents gnaw really well. Others specialize in chewing. Rats do it all.
Co-author Philip Cox explained, "Since the Eocene era, approximately 56 to 34 million years ago, rodents have been adapting their skulls and jaw muscles in what we might call an evolutionary race. A group of rodents called sciuromorphs, which includes the squirrel, began to specialise in gnawing adaptations, and the hystricomorphs, including the guinea pig, chose chewing. The myomorphs, the rats and the mice, however, adapted to both chewing and gnawing."
The good news, for those of you who have rats as pets, is that these animals can be very loving and loyal, preferring to snuggle with their owners instead of nipping at them. There are also many different types of rats, such as kangaroo rats, which are impressive jumpers, sing romantic songs to each other, and are vital to the ecosystem. My guess is that rats will achieve other rodent and animal kingdom honors in the future.
Photo: Black rat; Credit: Lisa Ruffino/SINC.