Science and conservation for the world’s 2800 small mammal species

Rodents: Family Geomyidae

holding_imgThe family Geomyidae has been established as being closely related to the family Heteromyidae, with both of these families being included in the superfamily Geomyidaea. Fossil record evidence has placed the separation of Geomyidae and Heteromyidae into two distinct families in the early Oligocene. The large number of recognizable taxa within this family is likely due to their small population size and tendency to specialize. This family is made up of 6 different genera, and 40 different species. The family Geomyidae is commonly referred to as the “pocket gophers.” This name comes from the distinguishing fur-lined cheek pouches of this group. These pouches are used for food transport, and they extend from the side of the mouth into the shoulders. Notable species include Geomys bursarius, the plains pocket gopher.

Geoymids are found only in North and Central America. They are a fossorial group, meaning they live most of their lives underground. Their bodies are highly modified to fit this lifestyle, including short but powerful legs and claws on the forefeet. The skull is robust and angular in overall appearance, which is a trait that helps to distinguish the group from the heteromyids. These animals can move both forwards and backwards with equal ease, and it is thought that their short tails can provide important sensory information that aids with this movement. Geomyids have small eyes and ears, and an enlarged lacrimal gland that is believed to provide fluids to wash out dirt. The lips of geomyids are also adapted to burrowing, as they can be closed behind the incisors in order to allow the incisors to be used to dig without filling the mouth with dirt. The teeth of this group are ever-growing.

Geomyids are active burrowers, creating different tunnels for different purposes. Their burrow systems include long, shallow tunnels that are used for foraging, and deeper tunnels used for nesting and food storage, as well as for latrines. These burrows are important to the surrounding ecosystem, as they are used by a variety of other species. Geomyids are generally solitary animals, and they come together solely to reproduce. They eat primarily tubers and roots, and consume an incredible amount of plants.
Work Cited
Myers, P. 2001. “Geomyidae” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 14, 2014 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Geomyidae/
“Pocket Gophers (Family Geomyidae).” Pocket Gophers (Family Geomyidae). Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://kufs.ku.edu/libres/mammals_of_kansas/geomys-burs.html>.

Author: Lauren Naylor