Hamster

Hamsters
Fossil range: Middle Miocene - Recent
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Campbell's Dwarf Hamster

Campbell's Dwarf Hamster
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Rodentia
Suborder:Myomorpha
Superfamily:Muroidea
Family:Cricetidae
Subfamily:Cricetinae
Fischer de Waldheim, 1817
Genera


Mesocricetus
Phodopus
Cricetus
Cricetulus
Allocricetulus
Cansumys
Tscherskia
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 18 species, classified in six or seven genera. Because they are easy to breed in captivity, hamsters are often used as lab animals and kept as pets.

The word is rather frequently misspelled as "hampster". This may have been popularized by The Hampster Dance meme.

Characteristics

Hamsters are stout-bodied, with tails much shorter than body length and have small, furry ears, short, stocky legs, and wide feet. Their thick, long fur can be black, gray, white, brown, buff, yellow, and red depending upon the species; underparts are white to shades of gray and black. The Dzhungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) and the striped dwarf hamster (Cricetulus barabensis) have a dark stripe down the middle of the back. Dwarf desert hamsters (genus Phodopus) are smallest, with bodies 5 to 10 cm (about 2 to 4 inches) long; the largest is the common hamster (Cricetus cricetus), measuring up to 34 cm long, not including a short tail of up to 6 cm. As hamsters have live birth (i.e. do not lay eggs) and give milk, they are considered mammals.

Habitat

Hamsters' northern range extends from central Europe through Siberia, Mongolia, and northern China to Korea. The southern portion of their range stretches from Syria to Pakistan. Throughout dry, open country they inhabit desert borders, vegetated sand dunes, shrubby and rocky foothills and plateaus, river valleys, and mountain steppes; some live among cultivated crops. Geographic distribution varies greatly between species. The common hamster, for example, is found from central Europe to western Siberia and northwestern China, but the golden hamster has been found only near a small town in northwestern Syria.[1]

Diet

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A Hamster Eating Bread
Hamsters are omnivorous. Their diet consists mostly of grains but also includes fresh fruit, roots, green parts of plants, invertebrates, and other small animals. Hamsters carry food in their spacious cheek pouches to cache in the burrow.[1]

Behaviour

Hamsters are generally solitary and primarily nocturnal though also can be considered crepuscular as they are sometimes active in the early morning or late evening. They are excellent diggers, constructing burrows with one or more entrances and with galleries that are connected to chambers for nesting, food storage, and other activities. They also like appropriate tunnels made by other mammals; the striped hairy-footed hamster (Phodopus sungorus), for instance, uses paths and burrows of the pika. None hibernates during winter, but some experience periods of torpor lasting from a few days to several weeks.[1]

Reproduction

Hamsters become fertile at different ages dependent on their species, but this can be from one month to three months of age. Male hamsters remain fertile for the rest of their lives, though females do not. Females are in heat approximately every four days.

Breeding season is from April to October, with two to five litters of 1 to 13 young being born after a gestation period of 16 to 22 days.[1] Gestation lasts 16 to 18 days for Syrian hamsters, 18 to 21 days for the Russian hamsters, 21 to 23 days for Chinese hamsters and 23 to 30 for Roborovski Hamsters. The average litter for Syrians is about 7, but can be as great as 24, which is the maximum number of pups that can be contained in the uterus. Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters tend to have 4 to 8 in a litter but can have up to 14. Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamsters tend to have slightly smaller litters, as do Chinese and Roborovski hamsters.

Hamsters are born hairless and blind in a nest which the mother will have prepared in advance. She uses shredded material such as leaves in the wild but prefers cotton or toilet paper in captivity. After one week they begin to explore outside the nest. They are completely weaned after three weeks, or four for Roborovski Hamsters. Most breeders will sell the hamsters to shops when the hamsters are anywhere from two to eight months old.

Classification

Taxonomists currently disagree about the most appropriate placement of the subfamily Cricetinae within the superfamily Muroidea. Some place it in a family Cricetidae that also includes voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice; others group all these into a large family called Muridae. Their evolutionary history is recorded by 15 extinct fossil genera and extends back 11.2 million to 16.4 million years to the Middle Miocene Epoch in Europe and North Africa; in Asia it extends 6 million to 11 million years. Four of the 7 living genera include extinct species. One extinct hamster of Cricetus, for example, lived in North Africa during the Middle Miocene, but the only extant member of that genus is the common hamster of Eurasia.
  • Subfamily Cricetinae
  • Genus Allocricetulus
  • Species A. curtatus - Mongolian Hamster
  • Species A. eversmanni - Kazakh Hamster, also called Eversmann's Hamster
  • Genus Cansumys
  • Species C. canus - Gansu Hamster
  • Genus Cricetulus
  • Species C. alticola - Ladak Hamster
  • Species C. barabensis, including "C. pseudogriseus" and "C. obscurus" - Chinese Striped Hamster, also called Chinese Hamster; Striped Dwarf Hamster
  • Species C. griseus - Chinese Hamster
  • Species C. kamensis - Tibetan Hamster
  • Species C. longicaudatus - Long-tailed Hamster
  • Species C. migratorius - Armenian Hamster, also called Migratory Grey Hamster; Grey Hamster; Grey Dwarf Hamster; Migratory Hamster
  • Species C. sokolovi - Sokolov's Hamster
  • Genus Cricetus
  • Species C. cricetus - European Hamster, also called Common Hamster or Black-Bellied Field Hamster
  • Genus Mesocricetus - Golden Hamsters
  • Species M. auratus - Syrian Hamster, also called the Golden hamster or Teddy Bear hamster)
  • Species M. brandti - Turkish hamster, also called Brandt's Hamster; Azerbaijani Hamster
  • Species M. newtoni - Romanian Hamster
  • Species M. raddei - Ciscaucasian Hamster
  • Genus Phodopus - Dwarf Hamsters
  • Species P. campbelli - Campbell's Russian Dwarf Hamster
  • Species P. roborovskii - Roborovski Hamster, sometimes known as the Mongolian Hamster, causing confusion with Allocricetulus curtatus
  • Species P. sungorus - Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster
  • Genus Tscherskia
  • Species T. triton - Greater Long-tailed Hamster, also called Korean Hamster

Pet ownership

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A Syrian or Golden Hamster, Mesocricetus auratus
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A Roborovski Dwarf Hamster
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A Sable short-haired Syrian Hamster
The best-known species of hamster is the Syrian or Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is the type of hamster most commonly kept as a pet. It is also sometimes called a "fancy" hamster. Pet stores also have taken to calling them "honey bears," "panda bears," "black bears," "European black bears," "polar bears," "teddy bears," and "Dalmatian", depending on their coloration. There are also several variations, including long-haired varieties that grow hair several centimeters long and often require special care.

Other hamsters that are kept as pets are the four species of "dwarf hamster". Campbell's Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus campbelli) is the most common of the four — they are also sometimes called "Russian Dwarfs"; however, many hamsters are from Russia, and so this ambiguous name does not distinguish them from other species appropriately. The coat of the Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus sungorus) turns white during winter (when the hours of daylight decrease). The Roborovski Hamster (Phodopus roborovskii) is extremely small and fast. The Chinese Hamster (Cricetulus griseus), although not technically a true "dwarf hamster", is the only hamster with a prehensile tail (about 4cm long) - most hamsters have very short, non-prehensile tails.

Many breeders also show their hamsters and so breed towards producing a good healthy show hamster with a view to keeping one or two themselves so quality and temperament are of vital importance when planning the breeding. Although breeders of show hamsters specialise in breeding show hamsters, there are also owners who have bred their pet hamsters. These may be the result of a planned or unplanned pregnancy but the hamsters have usually been cared for well and handled regularly, so make very suitable pets. Buying a hamster directly from a breeder means that there is the opportunity to see the parents and know the dates of birth.

In Australia it is illegal to keep hamsters as pets as 'escapees' could breed in the wild and become 'feral' pest animals.

Housing

Hamsters can be kept both in cages and in terraria, both of which are available in pet stores. Cages are easier to carry; their bars can be used for climbing. On the other hand, glass boxes keep hamsters from throwing litter out of their cages, provide a better view into the hamster's home, and create a quieter and more sheltered interior.

Despite the hamster’s small size, appropriate housing should always have a floor space of at least two square feet and a strong top because hamsters are surprisingly good climbers. Glass boxes must not be higher than their width to allow for a sufficient air circulation. Although smaller in size, dwarf hamsters often need more spacious housing than their larger relatives, at least 80cm by 40cm (2 feet by 4 feet) due to their high activity levels.

In the case of self-built dwellings, care should be taken to avoid materials that are dangerous to the animals. Plywood and wood from conifers is not suitable, because hamsters gnaw at their houses and both glue and resin are poisonous to them. Using standard water-soluble white wood glue to join pieces of solid wood, such as birch or beech wood, creates a safe environment for the hamster, although it may still chew through the wood. A purchased cage can be equipped with several intermediate levels, connected using stairs.

Hamsters do best in a well-lit room of constant, moderate temperature (18 to 26°C, 64 to 80°F), in a place out of strong sunlight that could cause dangerous overheating.

The floor of a hamster's residence is generally covered with a layer of litter. Litter made from recycled paper or wood lacking aromatic oils (such as aspen) is healthiest - gnawing and eating cat litter can be deadly, and cedar, pine, or other softwood-based litters may contain phenols that can irritate a hamster's respiratory system, liver, and skin. There is also commercial bedding available, such as Carefresh and Megazorb.




An often-used type of hamster cage with tubes

Hamster cage with wheel and water bottle

Note that these standard tubes cannot be used at a steep incline with dwarf hamsters

A large hamster cage consisting of many interconnecting chambers, sucessfully mimicking an underground burrow.


Exercise and entertainment

Like all pets, hamsters need exercise and entertainment to maintain their physical and mental health. "Exercise wheels" allow hamsters to run full speed, and are a common fixture in pet hamsters' enclosures. Avoid using wheels with individual rungs or bars, but rather select those with a solid base for comfortable running. This is because a hamster may trip and its legs may get caught on the rungs of the wheel while using it. Olive oil(which is harmless to a hamster if ingested) can be used to lubricate the axle of the exercise wheel to reduce friction and cut down on turning noises when in use. Other common objects are plastic balls or cars that the hamster can be placed in so that they can be supervised while exploring outside their cage. Lack of exercises for a hamster may cause it to suffer from paralysis, and the affected hamster will have a hunched over posture.[2]

Hamsters are nest builders, so most owners supply strips of tissue or toilet paper so they may build a secure spot in a corner or in their "house". Avoid using newspapers as the ink on it might be ingested when the hamster chews on them. Hay is also a valuable building material for cozy hamster nests, but may pose the risk of having pesticides on it or sharp pieces that could cut or scratch the hamster. Therefore, select dry hay such as Timothy and use the softer, leafy parts of the hay rather than the stems. Sawdust made from pine, and cedar wood shavings are not suitable for nesting material as stated earlier. Lint from the dryer also works well. They will rip it apart and make a bed out of it. Fine chinchilla sand (not chinchilla dust because the powdery material will cause respiratory problems) can be given in an enclosed container. Hamsters enjoy rolling in the sand to keep their fur clean and dry.

Hamsters, like many rodents, are also gnawers, and must be supplied with appropriate materials for doing so; for example, an edible gnaw toy or an unpainted wooden block can be placed in the cage. Failure to do so can cause dental problems for the hamster, as the incisors, which grow continually, will become too long and cause discomfort and/or eating problems.

Food

Many hamsters tend to carry food from the source (by carrying it in their cheek pouches) and hoard it away in a cache hidden somewhere inside their container. Fresh vegetables and fruits, seeds, and insects like grasshoppers make up an important part of hamsters' natural diet. However, not all foods are suitable for hamsters and some, such as sweets made for humans or poisonous plants like the leaves of the tomato or rhubarb, are dangerous for hamsters. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons should never be fed to a hamster because their stomachs can not handle the acid. Iceburg lettuce has very little nutritional value and in excess can cause liver problems. Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters are susceptible to hereditary diabetes, and any hamster suffering from diabetes should not have high sugar foods, such as fruit and corn.

In detail, the solid food components can be divided into three categories: dry, fresh, and animal food. Dry food generally makes up the bulk of a hamster's diet. Besides the standard rodent food sold in pet stores, most other kinds of seeds, kernels, and nuts can be given. Bird food like millet is a noteworthy alternative for small hamsters.

Sex and longevity

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A female Teddy Bear Hamster with her two pups, who are less than one week old.
Syrian hamsters typically live no more than two to three years in captivity, less than that in the wild. Russian Hamsters (Campbell's and Winter White) live approximately 1.5 to 2 years in captivity, and Chinese Hamsters 2.5 to 3 years. The smaller Roborovski Hamster often lives to 3 to 3.5 years in captivity. Both Syrian and Russian hamsters mature quickly and can begin reproducing at a young age (4-5 weeks), whereas Chinese hamsters will usually begin reproducing at 2-3 months of age, and Roborovskis at 3-4 months of age.

Left to their own devices, hamsters will produce several litters a year with several pups in each litter. Male and female hamsters are therefore usually kept in separate enclosures to prevent the addition of unwanted offspring. When seen from above, a sexually mature female hamster has a trim tail line; a male's tail line bulges on both sides. Male hamsters typically have very large testes in relation to their body size. Before sexual maturity occurs at about 4-6 weeks, it is more difficult to determine a young hamster's sex. When examined, female hamsters have two holes close together, whereas males have anal and genital openings further apart than the female's. (The penis is usually withdrawn into the coat and thus appears as a hole or pink pimple.)

Syrian hamsters usually live up to 2-3 years and with good care can live longer than the average life span.

Health conditions

Relationships among hamsters

Neumann et al. (2006) conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis of 12 of the above 17 species of hamster using DNA sequence from three genes: 12S rRNA, cytochrome b, and von Willebrand factor. They uncovered the following relationships:

Phodopus group
The genus Phodopus was found to represent the earliest split among hamsters. Their analysis included both species. The results of another study (Lebedev et al., 2003) may suggest that Cricetulus kamensis (and presumably the related C. alticola) might belong to either this Phodopus group or hold a similar basal position.

Mesocricetus group
The genus Mesocricetus also form a clade. Their analysis included all four species, with M. auratus and M. raddei forming one subclade and M. brandti and M. newtoni another.

Remaining genera
The remaining genera of hamsters formed a third major clade. Two of the three sampled species within Cricetulus represent the earliest split. This clade contains Cricetulus barabensis (and presumably the related C. sokolovi) and Cricetulus longicaudatus.

Miscellaneous
The remaining clade contains members of Allocricetulus, Tscherskia, Cricetus, and Cricetulus migratorius. Allocricetulus and Cricetus were sister taxa. Cricetulus migratorius was their next closest relative, and Tscherskia was basal.

Similar animals

Note that there are some rodents which are sometimes called "hamsters" that are not currently classified in the hamster subfamily Cricetinae. These include the Maned Hamster or Crested Hamster, which is really the Maned Rat (Lophiomys imhausi), although not nearly as marketable under that name. Others are the mouse-like hamsters (Calomyscus spp.), and the white-tailed rat (Mystromys albicaudatus).

See also

References

Notes

1. ^ "hamster." Encyclopædia Britannica. Standard Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
2. ^ [1]

Resources

  • Lebedev, V. S., N. V. Ivanova, N. K. Pavlova, and A. B. Poltoraus. 2003. Molecular phylogeny of the Palearctic hamsters. In Proceedings of the International Conference Devoted to the 90th Anniversary of Prof. I. M. Gromov on Systematics, Phylogeny and Paleontology of Small Mammals (A. Averianov and N. Abramson eds.). St. Petersburg.
  • Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. In Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds.). Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Neumann, K., J. Michaux, V. Lebedev, N. Yigit, E. Colak, N. Ivanova, A. Poltoraus, A. Surov, G. Markov, S. Maak, S. Neumann, R. Gattermann. 2006. Molecular phylogeny of the Cricetinae subfamily based on the mitochondrial cytochrome b and 12S rRNA genes and the nuclear vWF gene. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, in press; Available online 17 February 2006.

External links

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Chordata
Bateson, 1885

Typical Classes

See below

Chordates (phylum Chordata) are a group of animals that includes the vertebrates, together with several closely related invertebrates.
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Mammalia
Linnaeus, 1758

Subclasses & Infraclasses
  • Subclass †Allotheria*
  • Subclass Prototheria
  • Subclass Theria

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Rodentia
Bowdich, 1821

Suborders

Sciuromorpha
Castorimorpha
Myomorpha
Anomaluromorpha
Hystricomorpha
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents
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Myomorpha
Brandt, 1855

Superfamilies

Muroidea
Dipodoidea

Suborder Myomorpha contains 1,137 species of mouse-like rodents, nearly a quarter of all mammal species. Included are mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, lemmings and voles.
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Muroidea
Illiger, 1811

Families

Platacanthomyidae
Spalacidae
Calomyscidae
Nesomyidae
Cricetidae
Muridae
Muroidea is a large superfamily of rodents. It includes hamsters, gerbils, true mice and rats, and many other relatives.
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Cricetidae
J. Fischer, 1817

Subfamilies

Arvicolinae
Cricetinae
Neotominae
Sigmodontinae
Tylomyinae
Cricetidae is a family of rodents in the large and complex superfamily Muroidea.
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Johann Gotthelf Fischer von Waldheim (Grigorij Ivanovitsch Fischer von Waldheim in Russian) (October 13, 1771 – October 18, 1853) was a German anatomist, entomologist and paleontologist.

Fischer was born in Waldheim, Saxony, the son of a linen weaver.
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Mesocricetus
Nehring, 1894

Species

Mesocricetus auratus
Mesocricetus brandti
Mesocricetus newtoni
Mesocricetus raddei

Mesocricetus is a genus of Old World hamsters.
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Phodopus
Miller, 1910

Species

Phodopus campbelli
Phodopus roborovskii
Phodopus sungorus

The dwarf hamsters represent a group of small hamsters in the genus Phodopus.
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Cricetus
Leske, 1779

Species: C. cricetus

Binomial name
Cricetus cricetus
Linnaeus, 1758

The European Hamster,
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Cricetulus
Milne-Edwards, 1867

Species

Cricetulus alticola
Cricetulus barabensis
Cricetulus griseus
Cricetulus kamensis
Cricetulus longicaudatus
Cricetulus migratorius

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Allocricetulus
Argyropulo, 1932

Species

Allocricetulus curtatus
Allocricetulus eversmanni
Allocricetulus is a genus of hamster in the Cricetidae family.
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Cansumys
G. M. Allen, 1928

Species: C. canus

Binomial name
Cansumys canus
G. M.
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Rodentia
Bowdich, 1821

Suborders

Sciuromorpha
Castorimorpha
Myomorpha
Anomaluromorpha
Hystricomorpha
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents
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family (Latin: familia, plural familiae) is a rank, or a taxon in that rank. Exact details of formal nomenclature depend on the Nomenclature Code which applies.
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species is one of the basic units of biological classification. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.
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The Hampster Dance [sic] or Hampsterdance is one of the earliest examples of an Internet meme, originally a simple Geocities page featuring rows of animated hamsters and rabbits dancing in various ways to a sped-up sample from the song "Whistle Stop" by
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P. sungorus

Binomial name
Phodopus sungorus
(Pallas, 1773)

Subspecies

Phodopus sungorus sungorus (see text)
Winter White Russian hamsters
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C. barabensis

Binomial name
Cricetulus barabensis
(Pallas, 1773)

The Chinese Striped Hamster (Cricetulus barabensis), also known as the Striped Dwarf Hamster
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Phodopus
Miller, 1910

Species

Phodopus campbelli
Phodopus roborovskii
Phodopus sungorus

The dwarf hamsters represent a group of small hamsters in the genus Phodopus.
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Cricetus
Leske, 1779

Species: C. cricetus

Binomial name
Cricetus cricetus
Linnaeus, 1758

The European Hamster,
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Mammalia
Linnaeus, 1758

Subclasses & Infraclasses
  • Subclass †Allotheria*
  • Subclass Prototheria
  • Subclass Theria

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