Blue Sky Science: Why do beavers, rabbits have the same kind of teeth?

Cora Wieneke


Why do beavers, rabbits have the same kind of teeth?

Squirrels, beavers, chipmunks and rabbits all have similarly-shaped teeth, because all of those animals have teeth that continually grow throughout their lives.

Just like your fingernails grow continually throughout your life – and you have to clip and file them to keep them healthy and strong – those animals have to chew a lot to keep those teeth nice and sharp.

They have to take care of and maintain their teeth so they don’t grow too much. The teeth have to be able to fit in their mouth so that they can keep eating.

Beavers, chipmunks and squirrels are all in the rodent family. Rodents tend to be omnivores, which means they can eat a little bit of everything.

Some rodents are more specialized, like beavers. They have those honking huge teeth that are really great for chewing down the trees they use to make dams, their homes.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are vegetarian. They’re herbivores.

A great rule of thumb with animals is that form follows function. If you look at the body and teeth of an animal, you can generally figure out what kind of habitat they live in and what they eat.

Sharp canine teeth, like you would see on a cat or dog, is usually a sign of a predator. Generalized teeth can be an omnivore. With something like a beaver that has such strong teeth prominently in the front, it’s always a good bet that they’re a chewer.