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Rooted in the conceptual revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary research on the ecology of desert small mammals has progressed markedly in recent decades. Areas of particular emphasis include the role of extrinsic (e.g., climate) compared with intrinsic (e.g., density-dependence) factors on population growth and associated metrics, the role of competition compared with predation in influencing foraging decisions and habitat selection, the influence of small mammals on community structure and composition via consumption and redistribution of plant materials, and as ecological engineers and keystone species (or guilds). Recent emphasis on the energetic basis of assemblage composition is intriguing and warrants further work, and the generality of zero-sum dynamics requires further assessment. Desert systems continue to be the focus of much ecological research, and small mammals remain central figures in understanding the interplay between biotic and abiotic factors and between intrinsic and extrinsic drivers. Small mammals in deserts worldwide exemplify the importance of diverse approaches to ecological research, including local manipulative field experiments, long-term demographic monitoring, and both laboratory and field-based studies on behavioral and foraging ecology.