Researcher helps fill in the family tree of the shy mountain beaver

The long-held notion that today’s muskrat-sized mountain beavers are primitive and look like their ancestors is wrong, says the University of Oregon’s Samantha Hopkins.

Instead, the large rodent living mostly in moist valleys in the Pacific Northwest’s coastal mountains tell a story about rapid evolutionary change, said Hopkins, a professor in the UO’s Department of Earth Sciences and Clark Honors College.

“Today’s mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa, hasn’t been the same forever,” she said. “Today’s version has been evolving right along with us.”

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