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

Rodents: Family Heteromyidae

holding_imgThe family Heteromyidae has been established as being closely related to the family Geomyidae, 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. Heteromyids are thought to have originated in the Oligocene in Western North America. The lineages later diversified within the Neogene. Members of Heteromyidae are primarily deciduous thorn-scrub and arid-adapted rodents of medium to small size. This family is made up of 60 species that are placed into 3 subfamilies and 6 genera, which are divided as follows: Perognathinae, containing Chaetodipus and Perognathus , Heteromyinae containing Heteromy and Liomys, and finally Dipodomyinae containing Dipodomys and Microdipodops, Notable species within this family include kangaroo rats and pocket mice.

Heteromyids range from western North American, down through Mexico and Central American and into northwestern South America. Many species live in deserts and dry grasslands, although members of Heteromys and Liomys can be found in both wet and dry tropical forests. All members of this family have a large, fur lined pouch in their cheek. It opens next to the mouth and extends back along the shoulders. This pouch is used for food storage. Heteromyids feed on seeds and plant parts, and sometimes animal matter. They can store this food in their cheek pouch as a way of transporting it back to their burrow. Most heteromyids burrow, and can form complex tunnel systems that are made up of multiple chambers and openings. The overall skeletal structure of the skull of a heteromyid can vary between species, but as a whole they have thin and papery skulls with underdeveloped ridges and crests. This feature helps to distinguish them from their relatives the geomyids, who all have robust skulls. Heteromyids are sciuromorphus and sciurognathus, and their cheek teeth are hyposodont. In all but the kangaroo rats, however, their teeth are not evergrowing. In most other aspects, such as pelage texture and color, the specific characteristics vary between species.

 

 

Work Cited
Alexander, Lois F., and Brett R. Riddle. “Phylogenetics Of The New World Rodent Family Heteromyidae.” Journal of Mammalogy 86.2 (2005): 366-79. Web. 21 Nov. 2014. <https://faculty.unlv.edu/riddle/pdf/Alexander_Riddle_2005.pdf>.
Myers, P. 2001. “Heteromyidae” (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 21, 2014 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Heteromyidae/

Author: Lauren Naylor