Mammals Week – Anatomy of a Beaver

Beavers are great ecosystem engineers but they have evolved and adapted this way over hundreds of years. In saturdays mammals week post we thought we would go through the anatomy of a beaver, highlighting some of the adaptations which help it survive in the wild.  

Underwater Adaptations – Beavers have a translucent third eyelid (called a nictitating membrane) which covers and protects their eyes when underwater, while still allowing some sight. Their ears and noses are valvular, meaning they can also be closed when diving underwater. 

Insulation– A combination of a thick fat layer under the skin and dense, oily fur outside keeps their bodies well insulated in cold water. 

Feet – They have five fingered, clawed ‘hands’ on their forelegs which they can use to manipulate wood and help in building their dams and lodges. Their hind feet have webbing between the toes to aid in swimming and specialised cleaning claws for grooming their coat 

Teeth and jaws – Beaver’s long teeth never stop growing but are continually worn down by their constant gnawing. Beavers have strong skulls and jaws which help them to cut through trees and drag logs many times heavier than themselves 

Tail – The flat scaly tail is the beaver’s most recognisable feature and has several uses. It acts as a rudder when swimming, a prop when sitting or standing on land and a fat store. Beavers also use their tails to startle predators and communicate danger to other beavers by slapping them on the water’s surface as they dive. 

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