Seven species in 3 genera make up this strange family. Anomalurids are restricted to the forests of central Africa. They are small to moderately large rodents that look very much like squirrels. Resemblances include squirrel-like proportions of the head and body, and a long, furry tail (but differing from squirrels in usually being tufted, and never as bushy as in many sciurids). Even more remarkable, all but one species have gliding membranes very much like those of flying squirrels. And like flying squirrels, these anomalurids are accomplished gliders, leaping from the tops of trees and capable of agile bends and changes of direction.
Externally, anomalurids differ strikingly from squirrels in that the underside of their tails have two rows of pointed, raised scales. These are apparently used to anchor the tail as the animal pushes against the trunk of a tree. Anomalurids also differ from flying squirrels in that the cartilaginous rod that supports the leading edge of the gliding membrane arises from the elbow, rather than the wrist. The ears are larger than typically is the case in squirrels.
The skulls of anomalurids are nothing like those of squirrels. The infraorbital canal is huge and transmits the medial masseter (hystricomorphous) The zygomatic plate is narrow and nearly horizontal in orientation, very different from the broad and vertical plate of sciurids. Short postorbital processes adorn the frontals. The lower jaws are sciurognathous. The cheekteeth are brachydont and rooted, with 4 or 5 crests; the dental formula is 1/1, 0/0, 1/1, 3/3 = 20.
Most species of anomalurids show considerable variation in their color pattern, but most are brightly colored. The feet bear sharp, curved claws.
Anomalurids are vegetarians, feeding on fruit, bark, flowers, and sometimes insects. They are usually found in pairs, but sometimes in colonies of up to 100 individuals. They often den in hollow trees. The non-gliding anomalurid, Zenkerella, has no trace of the gliding membrane. It possesses scales along the base of its tail, however, and there is little doubt that it belongs to this group.
Anomalurids are known from the early Miocene of Africa. Their relationship to other rodents is not known.
Families of Order Rodentia Suborder Sciurognathi Family Aplodontidae (mountain beaver, sewellel) Family Sciuridae (squirrels) Family Castoridae (beavers) Family Geomyidae (pocket gophers) Family Heteromyidae (kangaroo rats, pocket mice, and allies) Family Dipodidae (birch mice, jumping mice, jerboas) Family Muridae (familiar rates and other rodents) Family Anomaluridae (scaly-tailed squirrels) Family Pedetidae (spring hare, springhaas) Family Ctenodactylidae (gundis) Family Myoxidae (dormice and hazel mice) Suborder Hystricognathi Family Bathyergidae (mole rats, blesmols, and rats) Family Hystricidae (Old World porcupines) Family Petromuridae (rock rat or dassie rat) Family Thryonomyidae (cane rats or grasscutters) Family Erethizontidae (New World porcupines) Family Chinchillidae (Chinchillas and viscachas) Family Dinomyidae (pacarana, branick rats, false paca) Family Caviidae (cavies and guinea pigs) Family Hydrochaeridae (capybara) Family Dasyproctidae (agoutis, acouchis) Family Agoutidae (pacas) Family Ctenomyidae (tuco-tucos) Family Octodontidae (degus, coruros, rock rats) Family Abrocomidae (chinchilla rats, chinchillones) Family Echimyidae (spiny rats) Family Capromyidae (hutias, zagouties, cavies, Indian coneys) Family Heptaxodontidae (Quemi, giant hutias) Family Myocastoridae (nutria, coypu)
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