PNG images: Mice and Rats

A mouse (plural: mice) is a small rodent characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, a body-length scaly tail and a high breeding rate. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are locally common. They are known to invade homes for food and shelter.

Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea.

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Rats

The best-known rat species are the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). The group is generally known as the Old World rats or true rats, and originated in Asia. Rats are bigger than most Old World mice, which are their relatives, but seldom weigh over 500 grams (1.1 lb) in the wild.

The term "rat" is also used in the names of other small mammals which are not true rats. Examples include the North American pack rats, a number of species loosely called kangaroo rats, and others. Rats such as the bandicoot rat(Bandicota bengalensis) are murine rodents related to true rats, but are not members of the genus Rattus. Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are called does, pregnant or parent females are called dams, and infants are called kittens or pups. A group of rats is referred to as a mischief.

The common species are opportunistic survivors and often live with and near humans; therefore, they are known as commensals. They may cause substantial food losses, especially in developing countries. However, the widely distributed and problematic commensal species of rats are a minority in this diverse genus. Many species of rats are island endemics and some have become endangered due to habitat loss or competition with the brown, black or Polynesian rat.

Wild rodents, including rats, can carry many different zoonotic pathogens, such as Leptospira, Toxoplasma gondii, and Campylobacter. The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the tropical rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on black rats living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts. Another zoonotic disease linked to the rat is the foot-and-mouth disease.

 

A rat in a suburb of Vancouver

The average lifespan of any given rat depends on which species is being discussed, but many only live about a year due to predation.

The black and brown rats diverged from other Old World rats during the beginning of the Pleistocene in the forests of Asia.

 

Mice

Domestic mice sold as pets often differ substantially in size from the common house mouse. This is attributable both to breeding and to different conditions in the wild. The most well known strain, the white lab mouse, has more uniform traits that are appropriate to its use in research.

The American white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), as well as other common species of mouse-like rodents around the world, also sometimes live in houses. These, however, are in other genera.

Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of arthropods have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, because of its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, the mouse is one of the most successful mammalian genera living on Earth today.

Mice, in certain contexts, can be considered vermin which are a major source of crop damage, causing structural damage and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In North America, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse excrement has been linked to hantavirus, which may lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).

Primarily nocturnal animals, mice compensate for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of hearing, and rely especially on their sense of smell to locate food and avoid predators.

Mice build intricate burrows in the wild. These burrows typically have long entrances and are equipped with escape tunnels or routes. In at least one species, the architectural design of a burrow is a genetic trait.

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