Evolution and systematics

Members of the group Cricetinae appear in the European fossil record in the Middle Miocene (11.2 to 16.4 million years ago [mya]) and in the Asian fossil record in the late Miocene (6 to 11 mya). As of 2003, 15 extinct fossil genera have been documented.

Hamsters are related to voles, lemmings, and New World mice. In the mid-twentieth century, taxonomists split the group from the Muridae as a separate family, Cricetidae; however this split has been reversed.

The number of genera in Cricetinae is still debated. Some taxonomists place Calomyscus and/or Mystromys in this group; others place these two genera in their own subfamilies.

Some sources specify 18 species in 7 genera, while others describe 24 species in 5 genera. According to the Wilson and Reeder classification for 18 species in 7 genera, the rat-like hamsters, genus Cricetulus, include six Eurasian species; the golden hamsters, genus Mesocricetus, include four European and Middle Eastern species; the dwarf hamsters, genus Phodo-pus, include three Asian species; the Mongolian hamsters, genus Allocricetulus, include two Asian species; with the Can-sumys genus having only one species, the Gansu hamster. Black-bellied hamsters are also the sole species in genus Cricetus, as well as the greater long-tailed hamster in genus Tscherskia.

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