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X-ray vision shows hamster stuffing its cheeks down to its hips

The riddle of how a hamster stuffs so much chow into its cheeks is solved by an inside look at how those pouches operate.

Hamster eats on the BBC
Hamster saves in case it gets hungry later. BBC/Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

You've probably heard the original form of the Groucho Marx saying, paraphrased here: "Outside of a hamster, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a hamster, it's too dark to read." With X-ray technology, the inside of a hamster isn't too dark after all.

The BBC's "Pets - Wild at Heart" series will be featuring in-depth looks at animals ranging from cats to dogs to hamsters using high-tech photographic methods. A sneak peek at the first episode shows a particularly interesting sequence involving a hungry hamster combined with X-ray imagery. The result is a fascinating inside view of how the industrious rodent is able to pack an obscene amount of food into its cheek pouches.

When faced with a bowl full of nuts and other edible goodies, the golden hamster starts shoving the morsels into its mouth and down the sides. A closeup shows every little strand of fur on its hairy hands. Speeded-up X-ray footage then shows just how much food he can fit down the cheek pouches. "His pouches extend all the way to his hips," explains the narrator.

I had a teddy bear hamster named Ruxpin when I was a kid. I was petting it one day when I discovered he had a huge lump on his side. I was convinced he must have cancer...until we figured out he had just stuffed a large food pellet down there and left it. The BBC's X-ray approach takes the mystery out of how this works. It pretty much proves that hamsters simply have built-in magical bags of holding.