Kangaroo rats, small rodents of genus Dipodomys, are native to western North America. The common name derives from their bipedal form. They hop in a manner similar to the much larger kangaroo, but developed this mode of locomotion independently, like several other clades of rodents.
Kangaroo rats are four-toed heteromyid rodents with big hind legs, small front legs and relatively large heads. Adults typically weigh between 70 and 170 g.The tails of kangaroo rats are longer than both their bodies and their heads. Another notable feature of kangaroo rats are their fur-lined cheek pouches, which are used for storing food. The coloration of kangaroo rats varies from cinnamon buff to dark gray, depending on the species.There is also some variation in length with one of the largest species, the banner-tailed kangaroo rat being six inches in body length and a tail length of eight inches.Sexual dimorphism exists in all species, with males being larger than females.
Kangaroo rats move bipedally. Kangaroo rats often leap a distance of 6 feet,and reportedly up to 9 feet (2.75 m) at speeds up to almost 10 feet/sec, or 10 kph (6 mph).They can quickly change direction between jumps. The rapid locomotion of the banner-tailed kangaroo rat may minimize energy cost and predation risk. Its use of a “move-freeze” mode may also make it less conspicuous to nocturnal predators.
Kangaroo rats inhabit overlapping home ranges. These home ranges tend to be small with most activities within 200–300 ft and rarely 600 ft.Home range size can vary within species with Merriam’s kangaroo rats having larger home ranges than banner-tailed kangaroo rats. Recently weaned kangaroo rats move into new areas not occupied by adults. Within its home range, a kangaroo rat has a defended territory consisting of its burrowing system.
Mating and reproduction
Kangaroo rats have a promiscuousmating system. Their reproductive output is highest in summer following high rainfalls.During droughts and food shortages, only a few females will breed. It appears that kangaroo rats can assess their local conditions and adjust their reproductive efforts accordingly.Merriam’s kangaroo rats breed between February and May and produce two or three litters per year.Before mating, the male and female will perform nasal-anal circling until the female stops and allows the male to mount her. A Merriam’s kangaroo rat female will allow multiple males to mount her in a short time, perhaps to ensure greater chances of producing offspring. Mating in banner-tailed kangaroo rats involves more chasing and foot drumming in the male before the female allows him to mate.Banner-tailed kangaroo rats mate on mounds and the more successful males chase away rival males.The gestation period of kangaroo rats lasts 22–27 days.
Are kangaroo rats dangerous?
They are important to the ecosystem as a prey species, but can be a danger to humans since they often carry fleas which may carry diseases that humans are susceptible to. California has set aside protected habitat for thekangaroo rat and other programs are currently underway to further protect them.
What does kangaroo rats eat?
Kangaroo rats are primarily seed eaters. They will, however, sometimes eatvegetation at some times of the year and some insects, too. They have been seen storing the seeds of mesquite, creosote, bush, purslane, ocotillo and grama grass in their cheek pouches.
Where do kangaroo rats live?
Kangaroo rat is a species of rat that belongs to the group of desert rodents. There are 23 species of kangaroo rats that are native to North America. Kangaroo rat lives in dry, arid and semi-arid habitats such as deserts, sandy and rocky areas.
Are kangaroos related to rats?
Kangaroos are marsupial mammals, while rodents are placental mammals. It is believed that the one was not a derivative of the other, meaning that the two, marsupials and placental mammals developed independently, hence there is no cross-over within their clade. … Kangaroos are more closelyrelated to koalas and possums.