In the UK, every good discussion takes place over a nice cup of tea. Our book was no exception, with the first seeds of the idea being sown during teatime in the tearoom of the Department of Zoology of the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom). Our original thought was to write a review on the evolution of the masticatory apparatus of rodents, but we quickly realised that such a review could be as long as a book, and that no journal would accept it for publication. Thus, the idea for this volume was first voiced as a joke: ‘what about writing a book then?’. Sometimes, a small joke can have long-term consequences and this one has been running for over two years.
At some point, the conversation turned to the fact that the last authoritative work on the Rodentia, Evolutionary Relationships Among Rodents: a Multidisciplinary Analysis, edited by W. Patrick Luckett and Jean-Louis Hartenberger (1985a), was nearly 30 years old. That volume was the result of a NATO Advanced Research Workshop held in Paris in July 1984 (Figure 1.1). Similarly, the current volume was preceded by a symposium on rodent evolution at the 10th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology in Barcelona in July 2013, convened by the editors and Robert Druzinsky. Although not precisely the same in content, many of the chapters in this volume were presented at that symposium. Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm for rodents in the intervening 30 years between these two volumes and symposia, it was clear to us that the study of rodents is currently going through a renaissance period. The widespread use of mouse models in developmental, behavioural and genetic studies has sparked interest in the biology of rodents as a whole, and developments in computing technology have enabled great leaps forward in our understanding of the rodents. Advances in the use of molecular data in phylogenetic studies are leading to consensus on the relationships within this large order (e.g. Blanga-Kanfi et al., 2009; Fabre et al., 2012), whilst recent fossil and extant finds have greatly increased our understanding of the evolutionary history of the rodents (e.g. Jenkins et al., 2005; Antoine et al., 2012).