Rodents And People
Rodents play a vital role in the ecosystem. They serve as the prey for many animals and some animals will use their burrows for shelter and protection.
People have caused the loss of population of many species of rodents by destroying their natural habitat, harming them directly, or introducing species that prey on rodents. Many species of rodents are considered pests and even dangerous to humans. Rodents cost billions of dollars in lost crops each year, eating the grain stored during the winter and the seeds of plants. Beavers can cause destruction by damming up creeks, causing water to back up into areas where its not wanted.
Rats carried the fleas that caused the plagues of Europe. Rats and mice help spread other deadly diseases as well, such as bubonic (byoo-BON-ik) plague and typhus (TIE-fus).
Rodents are important as sources of food for many people. Roasted, stuffed, or fried guinea pig, for example, is a popular dish in Ecuador, Peru, and other South American countries. In many parts of the world they have an economical importance for their fur, such as the chinchilla of South America, a rodent almost extinct in the wild but thriving in captivity.
Rodents such as mice and rats are also used extensively in medical research because their bodily processes are similar to humans' and they have a rapid reproduction rate. They are used to study many diseases and test medicines. People also use these and other rodents, such as guinea pigs, to test the safety of cosmetic and human food products. Many people also keep the small and "cute" rodents as pets.