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a subfamily of rodents of the family Cricetidae. The body length is 5–36 cm, and the tail length 0.7–33 cm. The coloring varies from ash- or brown-gray to dark brown-ochre. Sometimes there is a black stripe along the back or black and white patches on the anterior part of the body.
There are more than 60 genera, embracing about 240 species. The animals are distributed in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia. The USSR has 14 species, belonging to the following six genera: Calomyscus, Cricetulus, Phodopus, Mesocricetus, Cricetus, and Myospalax. The rodents inhabit the central and southern regions of the European USSR, the Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Middle Asia, Kazakhstan, Southern Siberia, and the Primor’e. Terrestrial animals, they live in forest steppes, steppes, semideserts, and deserts; they are found in mountains at elevations to 2,500 m. The animals live singly in complex burrows. Their diet is both vegetable and animal. Many species, for example, the common hamster, store food, sometimes as much as 90 kg. Most species hibernate. The rodents are very fertile, producing one to three litters a year, with one to 18 young in a litter. Cricetines are harmful agricultural pests and carriers of the causative agents of several infectious diseases. The skins of some species are dressed. Cricetinae are used as experimental animals.
I. M. GROMOV