Beavers (Castoridae) are semiaquatic rodents that modify forest and aquatic habitats by exploiting trees as a source of food and building material. The capacity of beavers to transform habitats has attracted interest from a variety of researchers, including ecologists, geomorphologists and evolutionary biologists. This study uses morphological and behavioral evidence from the fossil record to investigate the evolutionary history of tree-exploitation and swimming in beavers. The findings suggest that both behaviors appeared within a single castorid lineage by the beginning of the Miocene, roughly 24 million years ago. Biogeographic results support the hypothesis that tree-exploitation evolved at high latitudes, possibly influenced by the development of hard winters.

Beaver, Behavioral evolution, Biogeography, Castor, Fossil, Paleontology, Phylogenetics, Woodcutting
Journal of Mammalian Evolution
Department of Biology

Rybczynski, N. (2007). Castorid phylogenetics: Implications for the evolution of swimming and tree-exploitation in beavers. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 14(1), 1–35. doi:10.1007/s10914-006-9017-3