2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

The meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, is found in many parts of North America
The meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, is found in many parts of North America
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Arvicolinae


A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, and smaller ears and eyes.


Most vole species have rootless molars that fold into a series of triangles. Voles are one of the few rodents whose molars continue to grow during their entire life. There is little to distinguish a vole from a lemming.

Voles exhibit complex genetic structures with much variation, and appear to be evolving rapidly when compared to other vertibrates. Species have been found with anywhere from 17-64 chromosomes. Female voles have been found with chromosomes from both sexes. All of these variations result in very little physical aberration: most vole species are virtually indistinguishable.

All rodents have incisors that grow continuously.

Adult voles, depending on the species, are three to seven inches long.


Voles live in a variety of environments. The North American Meadow Vole lives in networks of above-ground "runways" in grassy areas, as well as underground burrows. California's Red Tree Vole lives in the treetops.


Sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in America, approximately 70 species of voles can be found in Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America.


Depending on the species, the vole's diet consists of seeds, tubers, conifers needles, bark, various green vegetation such as grass and clover, and insects.


Many carnivores such as wolves, owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, weasels, cats and fish eat voles.


The average life of a vole is 3–6 months. Voles rarely live longer than 12 months. The longest lifespan of a vole ever recorded was 18 months.

Popular culture

  • The website Fanfiction.Net is often referred to derogatively as the "Pit of Voles".
  • The character of Ratty in Kenneth Grahame's children's novel The Wind in the Willows is actually a water vole (Arvicola amphibus), not a rat.
  • The Inquirer, an IT web newsletter, nicknames the software company, Microsoft, "the vole".
  • In an episode of the first season of the British situation comedy Green Wing (2004) Dr. Caroline Todd likens colleague Dr. Martin Dear to a vole. Everyone concurs.
  • An episode of the U.S. animated comedy, King Of The Hill, confused a character (Bill) with a vole for comic effect.
  • Voles were frequently mentioned in the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a common type of vermin aboard the space station DS9, usually found in the Cargo Bay or in Engineering.
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