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‘Packrat’ is the new term for ‘really organized’

2:28pm, February 14, 2014

STOCKING UP  Packrats will hoard just about anything, even cactus needles, to use in building their nests.

A real packrat doesn’t store junk in its bedroom. Or its bathroom.

Its midden home may look like a heap of sticks, but inside, what a floor plan. What storage. The more eclectic hoarder species segregate pantry from lumber room from junk museum. The result is more orderly than the closets of some human packrats.

Some packrats like variety, while others specialize. Neotoma stephensi packrats hoard only juniper twigs, which make up 90 percent of their diet despite the plant’s toxicity. Packrats and the rest of their Neotoma woodrat cousins have quirky digestive systems more common in big grazing animals than in small mammals, allowing them to digest tough and even toxic foods.

“You can think of them as a miniature goat,” says Michele Skopec of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. “They eat all kinds of crazy stuff.”

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