A comparison of the gross morphology and micro-anatomy of the foot pads in two fossorial and two climbing rodents (Mammalia)


All correspondence to: Dr M. Haffner, Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


The foot pads of five rodents were studied by means of gross morphology and histology. The secretory portions of the glands are placed caudad to the openings of the ducts in species that mostly walk on the ground. This way the secretions are pressed out during walking by rolling on the foot pads craniad. In climbing species, the secretory portions are placed underneath the openings of the ducts and lead to secretion delivery during climbing by grasping. With their small and flat pads with few glands, digging species have a rather smooth and dry volar aspect to work in a shovel-like way. In contrast, climbing species have large and soft foot pads with a lot of glands. The thickness of the cornified layer is positively correlated with the density of glands and increases strikingly from digging to climbing species. Although scent production is possible for these glands, this points to a function of the secretions in connection with the cornified layer. In climbing species, the secretions of glands can moisten the skin and thereby heighten the friction between volar and climbing surface to prevent the animal from slipping. The density of glands per unit of surface is doubled in the ridged skin of Muscardinus avellanarius in comparison with the coned skin in Micromys minutus. While M. minutus mainly climbs by grasping stalks of reed and can tighten the grip by increasing the grasping force, M. avellanarius often climbs by pressing the volar aspect on to the bark, whereby friction is increased by the moistened skin.