muskrat

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muskrat,

North American aquatic rodentrodent,
member of the mammalian order Rodentia, characterized by front teeth adapted for gnawing and cheek teeth adapted for chewing. The Rodentia is by far the largest mammalian order; nearly half of all mammal species are rodents.
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. The common muskrats, species of the genus Ondatra, are sometimes called by their Native American name, musquash. They are found in marshes, quiet streams, and ponds through most of North America N of Mexico, but are absent from the extreme W and SE United States. A common muskrat resembles a large house rat with its tail flattened on either side; its hind feet are partially webbed between the toes. Its outer fur is shiny brown, and it has a dense undercoat. Its body length is 10 to 14 in. (25–36 cm), excluding 8 to 10 in. (20–25 cm) of tail. Its shoulder height is about 5 in. (13 cm), and its weight is 2 to 3 lb (0.9–1.4 kg). A solitary dweller, it may live in a burrow in a steep bank or a reed hut built in marshy shallows. Muskrat burrows are constructed above water level and are connected to an underwater entrance by a tunnel; huts are built with an underwater opening. Muskrats do not build dams or fell trees as do beavers. They swim by paddling with the hind feet, using the tail as a rudder. They feed on vegetation and aquatic animals; their chief enemy is the mink. Mating occurs in spring and summer. The gestation period is about 30 days and the female bears several litters of two to six young each season. Muskrat fur is much used commercially, chiefly for women's coats. It is often dyed to resemble more expensive furs and is sold under a variety of names, including Hudson seal and river mink. The secretion of the muskmusk,
odorous substance secreted by an abdominal gland of the musk deer, used in perfume as a scent and fixative. The gland, found only in males, grows to the size of a hen's egg; the secretion is reddish-brown, with a honeylike consistency and a strong odor that may function in
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 glands is used in making perfume. Introduced into Europe for its pelts, the muskrat became a serious pest because its tunneling below water level undermines canal banks and dike foundations. The round-tailed muskrat, or Florida water rat, Neofiber alleni, is found in swampy regions of Florida and SE Georgia. It dives and swims well, but is less aquatic then the common muskrat, spending much time on land. It is about 12 in. (30 cm) long, including the long, scaly tail. It is about 2 in. (5 cm) high at the shoulder, and weighs about 3-4 lb (0.34 kg). Its feet are not webbed, and its tail is not flattened. Despite their greater size and longer tails, muskrats are closely related to volesvole,
name for a large number of mouselike rodents, related to the lemmings. Most range in length from 3 1-2 to 7 in. (9–18 cm) and have rounded bodies with gray or brown coats, blunt muzzles, small ears concealed in the long fur, and short tails.
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. The water vole, Arvicola, found in most of Europe and N and W Asia, is an intermediate form; it is longer than other voles and in parts of its range leads an aquatic existance. Muskrats are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Cricetidae.

Muskrat

 

(Ondatra zibethica), a mammal of the subfamily Microtinae of the order Rodentia. The body is as much as 35 cm long, and the tail length is up to 28 cm. Body weight may reach 1.5 kg. The muskrat has adapted to a semiaquatic way of life in frozen bodies of water. The flat-sided tail is scaly, and the hind feet are partially webbed. The thick fur, which does not readily become wet, ranges from dark brown to black in color. The scent glands of the male elaborate a secretion containing musk.

The muskrat is found along shores and marshes in North America. Imported several times into Europe, it was introduced into the USSR in 1927. The species has been distributed throughout Eurasia, reaching subarctic regions and the floodplains of Asia Minor, and the Middle East, Mongolia, China, and Korea. The muskrat digs burrows or builds “huts” from the remains of aquatic plants, whose stems, leaves, and roots the animal eats. Animal tissue constitutes a minor yet constant part of the diet. One (in the north) to three or four litters are born annually. The muskrat is commercially valuable for its hide and, sometimes, meat. Occasionally the animal damages irrigation systems, dikes, and dams. It is a natural carrier of tularemia and paratyphoid.

muskrat

[′mə‚skrat]
(vertebrate zoology)
Ondatra zibethica. The largest member of the rodent subfamily Microtinae; essentially a water rat with a laterally flattened, long, naked tail, a broad blunt head with short ears, and short limbs.

muskrat

1. a North American beaver-like amphibious rodent, Ondatra zibethica, closely related to but larger than the voles: family Cricetidae
2. the brown fur of this animal
3. either of two closely related rodents, Ondatra obscurus or Neofiber alleni (round-tailed muskrat)