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family pedetidae

(spring hare, springhaas)

The springhaas, the only member of this family, is a peculiar, large, rabbit- or kangaroo-like rodent inhabiting arid lands of southern Africa. These animals, which weigh up to about 4 kg, have enormously enlarged hind feet and a long, heavy tail. They are ricochetal, moving by hopping in the same manner as kangaroos when startled or frightened, but moving in a quadrupedal fashion at other times. The tail, however, is bushy. The head of a springhaas is short, the eyes are very large, and the ears are enormous, almost as large as a hare's. The pinnae are thinly haired on the posterior surface and hairless on the anterior, also very much like a hare. They have a tragus, which can be folded back to seal the opening of the ear when the animal digs. The forefeet, while much smaller than the hindfeet, are robust and end in 5 long, strongly built, curved and sharp claws. The hindfeet have but 4 toes (note that this is the reverse of most rodents, which have 4 toes on the forefeet and 5 on the hindfeet!); the second toe is much larger than the others, and all end in wide claws that in some ways resemble small hoofs.

The fur of spring hares is long and soft but thin. There is no underfur. The upper parts are usually sandy brown to reddish brown, while the belly is whitish or buffy.

The skull of a springhaas is massive, with very broad frontals and nasals. The arrangement of the masseter appears hystricomorphous; that is, a relatively large medial masseter passes through the greatly enlarged infraorbital foramen as it extends from the side of the rostrum to the lower jaw. A zygomatic plate is present but not large. The jugal is broad. The postorbital process is reduced or absent, and the mastoid region of the basicranium is inflated.

The dental formula of pedetids is 1/1, 0,0, 1/1, 3/3 = 20. The occlusal surface of the cheekteeth is simple, and these teeth are evergrowing.

Springhaas are good diggers, constructing and residing in elaborate burrows. Each burrow system contains a single animal (or pair with young). A number of individuals may dig their burrows close together, however, so that springhaas are sometimes seen out and foraging in groups. They are nocturnal, emerging to feed on bulbs and grasses. They sometimes feed on cultivated crops, including berries, grains, and tubers.

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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