Saturday, April 14, 2007

Favorite Mammals Episode IV: Mole Rats, Beavers, and Capybara

Continuing my cataloging of cool animals from the BBC's Life of Mammal series, I've got three interesting ones to highlight this post. The fourth episode of the series is titled The Chisellers, and it deals with some very adaptable rodents. Here are my favorites, which inhabit very different environments and have correspondingly very different behaviors.

The Naked Mole Rat

These little animals from East Africa are the only hairless rodent, and they have some other very unique traits:
  • Like social insects, there is a queen who breeds and worker rats who are sterile and handle the digging of tunnels and procuring of food.
  • Their lips seal behind their protruding teeth to prevent dirt from flying in their mouths as they dig.
  • They can walk equally fast both backward and forward.
The Beaver

It's not a very exotic choice (at least to those of us in North America), but it's engineering feats make it one of the most amazing animals on the planet. The video has some amazing footage of Beavers at work building and maintaining a dam, felling trees, storing branches in the refrigerating cool waters of the lake they created, and passing the winter in their well-insulated lodge. It's a very industrious little creature. It also has an amazing capacity to hold its breath underwater, a trait that serves it well in eluding its predators, and doing its day-to-day tasks.

The Capybara

This is the largest rodent in the world at about 4 feet long and 110 lbs, and it resembles an overgrown guinea pig. The Capybara is indigenous to South America. It is as fast as a small horse on land, but also well-adapted to water so that they can navigate the flooded grasslands during rainy season.
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