Why do rats have tails?

The tail of a rat is actually the vertebral column extension which is projected on the animal’s backside. The tail is usually cylindrical and usually has three layers. The core that is innermost is the bone and it is surrounded by tendons which are then surrounded by a skin layer. There are blood vessels that are in between the tendons all through the tail.

The role

Thermoregulation: one of the roles of a rat’s tail is thermoregulation. This is the heat loss organ that the animal uses. The tail is well adapted to serve this purpose due to the fact that it doesn’t have any fur and also has volume ratio that is smaller than the surface ration. It also has lots of blood vessels especially in the mid-length and the tip. 5% of a rat’s surface area is within the tail and it is able to deal with around 17 percent of body heat. The temperature is regulated through the dilation and constriction of the blood vessels within the tail. When temperatures go up, blood vessels vaso-dilate and this allows the warm blood to get to the tail and returns to the rest of the body at a lower temperature.

Balance: this is yet another role of the rats tail. Rats are amazing climbers and you may see them on anchor chairs, ropes, on fences, branches and even telephone wires. The balance can be attributed to their tails. The tail changes the center of the rat’s gravity even though the change is rather small because the tail doesn’t weigh as much. If you observe a rat on a rope especially if it’s running, you will notice the constant tail flicks from one side to the next. This is doe n so as to steady the rat and this is actually the same thing applied by the rope walkers that we see in the circus.

It may be interesting to know that how long the tail of a rat also depends partially on where it was raised. This is with relation to the prevailing temperatures.

Rats may not grasp objects using the tail but they sure do control those muscles within the tail with a precision that is commendable.

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