In this post we will be taking a closer look at two tiny rodents, namely the vole vs. mouse. They are extremely similar and you would be required to do fairly close inspection in order to identify which specimen you’re dealing with.
However, after reading this post you’ll easily be able to do this!
The animal kingdom is a tree branching into millions and trillions of trunks and offshoots. It would be impossible to list or remember all the complex and impressive animal species out there. As it is rare for anyone to have complete information about all animals, even zoologists, biologists and marine biologists cannot retain every single detail – so there is always stays a chance of confusion between closely related animals.
Children, the common man, and educated people lacking in-depth zoological knowledge can easily mistake one animal for another just because they either look alike or behave similarly. In order to distinguish one creature from another, it is helpful to carry out a comparative analysis between the two or three animals of interest.
For these reasons, the following compilation is designed in order to learn about the similarities and differences between two cousins, namely Voles and Mice. We’ve compiled a review on the vole vs. mouse, so from this day onwards, you will never confuse them again!
A Quick Comparison: Vole vs. Mouse
|Weight: 0.8 – 2.4 ounces
Length: 3 – 9 inches
|Weight: 0.6 – 1.2 ounces
Length: 3 – 7 inches
|Speed and Movement Type
|– Up to 6 mph
– Moves on ground/runs
|– Up to 10 mph
– Runs quickly
-Has 3 molars and 1 incisor in 4 quadrants
-Sharp incisor teeth
-18 teeth including 12 molars and 4 incisors
|-They are not smart and can be trapped easily
|– Highly intelligent and can recognize their families and memorize routes
|– Incredible sense of smell and hearing
– Poor eyesight
-Good sense of smell
-Good sense of hearing and taste
-Detects air changes with whiskers
|-Rapidly moves towards the enemy
-Not very aggressive
|-Strikes enemies at any time
|-Attacked by owls, snakes, foxes
|-Eaten by foxes, lizards, snakes, falcons, hawks, etc.
-They dig holes or find escape routes
What is a Vole?
Small rodents which are related to lemmings and hamsters are known as Voles. Although they are related to the aforementioned animals, they have sturdier bodies with distinctly long tails covered with hair. They have spherical heads with small ears and eyes. Voles also have uniquely developed posterior teeth known as molars.
Their body size ranges from 3 to 9 inches (8 – 23 cm). The voles superficially bear a resemblance to multiple other similarly sized animals like moles, gophers, mice, rats, and shrews – the whole rodent family really.
In the year 2016, a study was done to look into the behavior of voles, and it was learned that they have a specific behavior of comforting each other, especially when one of them faces danger or harm. This is done by giving undivided attention and additional care to the mistreated vole. When experimentally checked and analyzed, it was measured that the worried and normal voles had similar levels of elevated stress hormones, signifying their capability to empathize with others.
Taxonomic Classification of Voles
Where Can Voles Be Found?
Intriguingly, as we delve into the quest to pinpoint the hometown of voles, a fascinating journey through diverse landscapes unfolds. From towering mountain peaks to sea-level terrains, voles have staked their claim in a remarkable array of habitats.
In North America, voles carve out their homes from the frosty expanse of Alaska to the high summits of Mexico and Guatemala. Likewise, Eurasia plays host to these adaptable creatures, with their presence extending across Europe, Russia, West Asia, and Kazakhstan.
Venturing into the African continent, we encounter a more exclusive vole population huddled along the Libyan coastline.
What’s truly astonishing is the vole’s ability to thrive in this rich tapestry of environments. They call prairies, steppes, deserts, alpine and subalpine meadows, treeless tundra, and various types of forests—including cloud, deciduous, and coniferous—their home across these diverse nations.
What Do Voles Feed On?
Commonly voles feed on little plants like shrews, but they can also fullfill their dietary requirement by eating dead animals. In situations of restricted provision or lack of availability, they can very well live on almost any nut or fruit. Additionally, the voles pick out plants more than the majority of mini animals, marking their existence.
Voles willingly encircle small trees and ground cover, similar to a porcupine. This cinching can undeniably kill young plants and is considered unhealthy for all kinds of vegetation.
Voles frequently feed on succulent roots, scrape under plants, and eat the life out of the plant. Plant bulbs are regarded as the more favored food for the voles. Reaching these sensitive and hidden away plant parts is particularly easy for them owing to their remarkable burrowing and tunneling skills giving them access without any hurdle or warning.
Big communities of voles are in most cases established, followed by the inevitable devastation they cause to multiple plants. Nevertheless, similar to their fellow rodents, they are considered significantly beneficial for the environment as they play their designated roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. Their digging and girdling, to some extent, is the source of nutrient dispersal throughout the upper soil layers.
Mating System of Voles
Voles can be either monogamous or polygamous, which leads to varied modes of mating preferences along with parental care. The conditions of a given environment hold a significant role in deciding which system is put in place in a respective population.
Voles dwell in communities. In the respective genus called Microtus, the monogamous mode is chosen when resources are structurally consistent and population concentration is meagre. Contrary to this, when the opposite conditions are observed, polygamous proneness comes to life.
The mating fashion of voles is also affected by the operational sex ratio, which leans towards monogamy if the male and female populations are present in relative strengths. In situations where the population in terms of sex ratio is disproportional, polygamy is the preferred mode.
Voles would rather have intimate partners chosen through olfactory sensory identification. Interestingly the voles who prefer single-partner relationships, otherwise known as monogamy, prefer males who have yet to mate, whereas non-monogamous voles do not have any just condition for mating.
Mate predilection in voles evolves by living together and sharing close vicinity in a short time span of 24 hours. Voles can breed all year round. The female vole is fertile within 25 days following her birth. In comparison, the males develop the ability to copulate after they are 45 days old.
The voles make their nests in pits inside marsh grasses or underground in dugouts and tunnels. The female voles can give birth to various litters yearly, with a custom litter ranging from 2 to 3 offspring, but can be as many as nine.
The newborn voles are blind at birth, naked, and extremely defenseless. The female voles are responsible for caring for young ones for the coming two weeks until they are independent enough to find their food. Their lifespan is usually not more than 1 year.
Predators Of Voles
The knowledge gained through years of studies surrounding the life cycle of voles reveals the treasure of information that they are the favorite prey of a variety of diverse animals like owls, hawks, snakes, weasels, and red foxes. In order to stay safe and keep away from the sight of predators, the voles prefer staying in their burrows underground. It is also observed that they can exhibit aggressive behavior when in captivity.
What is a Mouse?
The term mouse seems to be a common name used for the entire family of rodents that look similar because of their petite size of about 5 inches. But this general approach is incorrect because not all rodents are mice. When speaking from the scientific point of view, a mouse means any of the 38 species falling in the genus called ‘Mus’. Mus is simply the Latin translation of the word mouse.
Initially, the confusion among different rodents being considered and referred to as mice was also prevalent in the scientific community. The clarity was attained with years of study and classification, helping everybody learn that Mus is a clearly defined genus of petite creatures with a distinct amalgamation of traits.
Inside the genus, there are four characteristic subclasses known by the name of spiny mice (scientifically called Subgenus Pyromys,) shrew mice (scientifically called Subgenus Coelomys), the house mouse (scientifically called subgenus Mus,) and African mice (scientifically called Subgenus Nannomys.)
Taxonomic Classification of Mice
|Mus Musculus Bactrianus, Mus Musculus Castaneus, Mus Musculus Domesticus, Mus Musculus Gentilulus, Mus Musculus Musculus.
Where Can Mice Be Found?
The mice run towards homes and buildings as a superior choice of inhabitation as it provides better chances of survival when compared to their lives in yards, fields, and forests. Although their habitats can differ, many species choose to stay closer to people for the sole reason being the provision of safety against predators and the availability of food and water resources inside human structures.
Even if the outdoor habitats achieve and maintain the ideal conditions in most situations, the unstable and fluctuating weather conditions often drive these creatures indoors. Rodents can easily fit through small spaces or cracks and enter through the smallest of gaps in foundations, around entrances, and garages. Once the mice successfully enter, they build permanent nests in areas out of sight but close to the food reserves.
As houses are a tempting habitat for mice, at the same time, it is not very good news for the homeowners residing in the properties. The house kitchens and pantries are a favorite place for rodents to continuously contaminate the surfaces they come in contact with and spoil the food they eat. Mice are seen chewing on plastic and packaging to get access to stored goods – invariably befouling everything they find with germs, fur, and fecal droppings.
What Do Mice Feed on?
Mice have been found to struggle as they cannot resist the temptation of food, no matter if it’s a freshly cooked meal or residual scraps, even food spoilage. This blind love for all forms of food by mice is particularly troublesome in the restaurant industry.
The mice are practically omnivores, preferring a diet consisting of grains, seeds, meat, and fruits, essentially, in short, anything that could be accounted for high carbohydrates. They are fussy eaters who can survive on very restricted food and water amounts daily.
However, their dietary plan isn’t restricted to just food: mice don’t mind snacking on electrical wiring, paper packaging, or cardboard boxes. Experimentation has revealed that mice do have favorite foods that strongly entice them. These include fruits (berries), pet food, nuts, all kinds of meat, plants, dinner leftovers, grains, and seeds.
Reproduction of mice
A female mouse’s gestation or pregnancy duration is stretched over approximately 19 to 21 days before giving birth to a litter. A single litter conventionally consists of five or six mouse pups, although it is also not infrequent to observe as many as 12 mice pups in a litter at times.
A normal female mouse is capable of birthing around 5 to 10 litters a year. Miraculously she is ready to mate right after giving birth, which means that mice can give birth to a second litter very closely spaced in time, as little as 25 days after the initial parturition! The mouse continues to practice the same cycle till the time of death. And interestingly, when the time of retirement for the mother mouse arrives, the offspring have successfully birthed countless litters of their own by then.
When the pups are newborns, they lack fur and ears. Likewise, the mice pups are blind when born and are therefore very vulnerable. The mother mouse takes on the nursing responsibility towards her pups for the following 21 days. The initial days in the life of a mouse are concentrated with rapid growth. By the 4th day, the ears are completely developed, and the body fur starts to show around the 6th day.
The mice pups will open their eyes after the 13th or 14th day, after which they are considered completely mature. Around the 21 st day, the pups become independent, initiating the departure of male pups from their mother mouse’s territory. However, young females stay with their families for a longer time.
Predators Of Mice?
We have learned through studies and observation that mice are very fertile and capable of reproducing about 5 to 10 times yearly. Each parturition leads to the birth of approximately 4 to 12 pups, meaning an abundance of mice.
It is a law of nature to control and regulate the world population to maintain the relationships of the food chain. If there is an abundance of one species that can serve as prey, there will evidently be a number of different predators who will feast on them.
If all mice predators can be put together, then the exhaustive list will be as follows: hawks, crows, eagles, blue jay, herons, falcons, owls, shrikes, snakes, lizards, geckos, bearded dragons, skinks, monitor lizards, cats, canid, ferrets, mongooses, red fox, weasels, skunks, minks, wolves, jackals, coyotes, and humans.
Comparison between Vole vs. Mouse
|When comparing the vole vs. mouse on the basis of physical appearance, then it is found that mice have slimmer bodies in comparison to voles who have a heavier build. Apart from that, a striking difference between them is that a vole has comparatively smaller ears, eyes, and tails.
|The vole vs. mouse are totally opposite when their habitat preferences are compared because mice will seek protection and shelter indoors. Contrary to this, the voles prefer open spaces.
|There is a remarkable difference in the overall diet preferences of the vole vs. mouse, where mice are majorly omnivorous (non-vegetarian food-based) and voles are majorly herbivorous (plant-based).
|Voles and mice both share identical lifespans of about a year. But their reproductive practices diverge to a degree. Voles can breed all year long, but they have a preferred time of giving birth, which is around spring. Whereas that is not the case with mice because they breed anytime and every time without any preferences.
Additionally, female mice have shorter pregnancies of an average of 10 to 20 days in contrast to Vole gestation periods stretched over a 20 to 30 days period.
|Interaction with humans
|Both rodents under scrutiny have been learned to share the same environment and habitat as that of human beings, meaning a close and repeated interaction. Despite that, the nature of the troubles caused by both are different. As Voles prefer staying outdoors and love burrowing, they cause havoc for the yards and eventually kill plants with their dietary and digging habits. Mice are indoor pests that are a health hazard and contamination threat when they interfere with the food storages in the houses.
Wrapping Up: Vole vs. Mouse
|The female Voles can give birth to various litters yearly, with a custom litter ranging from 2 to 3 offspring, but can be as many as nine.
|The female Vole can attain mating capability within 25 days, followed by their birth. Whereas the males develop the ability to copulate after they are 45 days old.
|In order to stay safe and keep away from the sight of predators, the voles prefer staying in their burrows underground.
|Mice like a range of foods and fruits like berries, pet food, nuts, nearly any kind of meat, grains and seeds, plants, and dinner leftovers.
|Mice are very fertile and capable of reproducing about 5 to 10 times yearly, and each parturition leads to the birth of approximately 4 to 12 pups.
|The mice pups will open their eyes after the 13th or 14th day, followed by which they are considered completely grown.
This entire assemblage of facts and details, dwelling in the life patterns and preferences of both rodents, have equipped us with a treasure of knowledge that not only helps us identify and distinguish them from each other – but also provides us with novel learning opportunities.
Conclusively both voles and mice are very similar to each other physically. Although they can fairly easily be distinguished by size, with the vole being a touch larger, the best way to tell them apart is by looking at their behavior as this is what differs the most between them.
Thank you for reading this article on the vole vs. mouse! The animal kingdom is full of species whose evolutionary trees diverged recently and as a consequence share a lot of traits, another example is the Cicada vs. Locust.
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