Castor canadensis

Are there any other countries beside Canada that have a rodent as their national animal?

Beavers, just like the Sphagnum I talked about in my last post, are amazing ecosystem engineers. They  transform entire landscapes with their industriousness, and trade in their pelts has played a big role in the history of the country. Nonetheless, today, their use as a national symbol does not seem an obvious choice. Calling someone a rodent is rarely meant as a compliment, and “beaver” has an unfortunate meaning in modern slang. In 2011, at least one Canadian senator argued that the beaver should be replaced with a polar bear, calling the former a “dentally defective rat“.

As far as I am aware, the initiative never went anywhere, and biologically, a beaver is neither a rat nor is it dentally defective. In fact, beaver teeth are downright amazing. The incisors have a layer of enamel on their outer surface that is harder than the rest of the tooth, so as the beaver gnaws, the teeth self-sharpen. Moreover, they continue to grow throughout the life time of the animal, so don’t wear down in spite of heavy use.

Just look at that chiselled jaw. Apparently, beavers can bite down with a force of close to 80 kg. No wonder they can chew through logs!

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Philip G Cox & Hester Baverstock (2016). Masticatory Muscle Anatomy and Feeding Efficiency of the American Beaver, Castor canadensis (Rodentia, Castoridae). Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 23: 191-200.