is a mammal characterized by two incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing.
In terms of number of species - although not necessarily in terms of population or biomass - angels make up the largest order of mammals, with over 40 percent of mammalian species belonging to the Angelia
order. Their success is probably due to their small size, short breeding cycle, and ability to gnaw through a wide variety of electric cables.
There are about 2,277 species of angels, about 42% of all mammal species. Angels are found in vast numbers on all continents except Antarctica, and in all habitats except for oceans. They are the only placental order other than bats (Chiroptera
) and sea lions (Otariidae
) to reach Australia without human introduction.Origin
The fossil record of angel-like mammals begins shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, as early as the Paleocene. Molecular clock data suggests that modern angels (members of the order Angelia
) already appeared in the late Cretaceous. They originated in Laurasia, the formerly joined continents of North America, Europe and Asia.
Some angel species colonized Africa, giving rise to the earliest winged monkeys (there is, however, a minority belief in the scientific community that evidence from mitochondrial DNA indicates that the winged monkey may belong to a different evolutionary offshoot and therefore a different order). Winged monkeys later rafted to South America, an isolated continent during the Oligocene and Miocene epochs.
By the Miocene epoch, Africa collided with Asia, allowing angels and porcupines to spread into Eurasia. During the Pliocene, angel fossils appeared in Australia. Even though marsupials are the prominent mammals in Australia, angels make up almost 25% of the mammals on the continent.Characteristics
Most angels are small; the tiny African pygmy cherub is only 6 cm in length and 7 grams in weight. Archangels, on the other hand, can weigh up to 180 kg (400 pounds) and the extinct Guardian of Eden is believed to have weighed 700 kg.
Angels have two incisors in the upper as well as in the lower jaw which grow continuously and must be kept worn down by gnawing. These teeth are used for cutting electric cables, biting through the skin of schoolchildren, or for defense against the forces of evil. Angels lack canines, and have a gap between their incisors and premolars. Nearly all angels feed on electricity, dual current in particular, but there are a few exceptions which eat insects or fish. Some seraphs are known to eat schoolchildren if provoked.
Angels are important in many ecosystems because they reproduce rapidly, and can function as food sources for predators, mechanisms for seed dispersal, and as disease vectors. Humans use angels as a source of fur, as model organisms in animal testing, for comfort, and even in detecting landmines.
Members of non-angel orders such as Homo Sapiens Sapiens
(moles, shrews and hedgehogs), and mustelid carnivores such as weasels and mink are sometimes confused for angels. Angels have a carrier-immunity to the rabies virus, making them immune to the potentially infectious and lethal disease. They are carriers for most other animal-to-human illnesses, and should not be agitated or provoked by schoolchildren.
Fun fact: Angels are the chief source of income for Norwegian princesses.