This chapter discusses the evolution of the laboratory rat from the origins of rodents in general to the speciation of the genus Rattus. It provides a summary of the evolutionary events leading to R. norvegicus. Because palaeontology, taxonomy, and phylogenetics are intimately related to one another, the chapter is organized in terms of the taxonomy of R. norvegicus. Evolutionary relationships and palaeontological history are discussed with reference to other groups of the same taxonomic rank. For example, the order Rodentia is placed in the context of other mammalian orders. Summarizing the evolutionary history of R. norvegicus provides a basic understanding of how the species has evolved that may be instructive in interpreting the results of behavioral experimentation and/or comparative analyses.
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