An international team of scientists has crowned the rat the biting champion of the rodent family. The researchers from the United Kingdom, France, and Japan recently developed computer models to simulate the skeletal and muscular structures of the jaws and skulls of various rodents, to determine which species are the most efficient at two kinds of bite: gnawing and chewing.
Most rodents are specialized to perform one or the other kind of bite with greater efficiency. Squirrels, for example, are more specialized for gnawing with their incisors, for a diet that is heavy in hard-shelled nuts and seeds. Other rodents, like guinea pigs, are better at chewing with the back teeth, since they eat more grasses.
Rats and mice, however, have evolved a skull structure that is adapted for both chewing and gnawing. And, to the surprise of the researchers, rats outperform both guinea pigs in chewing, and squirrels in gnawing. This gives the rats an extra level of adaptability that has allowed them to flourish in the wide range of environments worldwide in which we find them today.