Bamboo rat

Bamboo rat is a rodent adapted to live underground. This is a very famous group belonging to the family, which has three representatives. Fur coloration can vary considerably between these species. These rats are related to subterranean voles of the zokor type and look like a large zokor. Bamboo rats are rarely kept as pets, although these animals have a very original and unusual appearance.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Bamboo rat

Photo: Bamboo Rat

Real rodents are believed to have originated in Asia. They first appear in fossils from the late Paleocene and the earliest Eocene in Asia and North America, about 54 million years ago. These original animals themselves descended from rodent-like ancestors called the Anagalida, from which the lagomorphs (Lagomorpha) a group of lagomorphs also descended.

Video: Bamboo rat

Muridae (Muridae) – an ancient family that gave birth to modern rats, domestic mice, hamsters, voles and gerbils, first appeared at the end of the Eocene (about 34 million years ago). Modern murines evolved in the Miocene (23.8-5 million years ago) and formed during the Pliocene (5.3-1.8 million years ago).

Interesting fact: In the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, rats were caught and used as food during a famine. Rat catchers were hired to exterminate rats and capture live rats for rat fights, rat races, and rat pits. Ratcatchers also caught and kept wild rats in cages. During this time, natural wild albino rats were selected from litters of captive rats for their distinctive appearance. Wild albino rats of natural origin were first recorded in Europe in 1553.

An extensive genus of rats first appeared in the family Muridae from about 3.5 to 5-6 mil. years ago. It was native to the Mediterranean, Middle East, India, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia (including the Philippines, New Guinea, and Australia). After its emergence, the genus of rats underwent two episodes of intense speciation, one about 2.7 mil. years ago, and the other started about 1.2 million years ago and possibly continues today.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a bamboo rat looks like

Photo: What a bamboo rat looks like

The body length of a bamboo rat is from 16.25 to 45.72 centimeters, the tail length is 6-7 cm, and the weight is from 210 to 340 grams. It is commonly referred to as the little bamboo rat. The animals have small ears and eyes and are very similar to the American poker gopher except for the missing cheek pouches. The bamboo rat has thick and soft fur on its head and body, but a small amount of fur on its tail.

The coloration of this mammal varies from reddish cinnamon and chestnut to ash gray and bluish on the upper parts and quite pale and thinner on the lower parts. Some individuals have a white stripe on top of the head and a narrower stripe from chin to throat. The small ears of the animal are completely hidden in the fur, and the neck is not pronounced. Legs are short.

Cannomys badius — stocky, medium-sized mammal with short, powerful legs. They have long, powerful digging claws and smooth pads on the soles of their feet. This rat has large incisors and molars with flat crowns and roots. The zygomatic arch is very wide, and the body is thick and heavy. Female bamboo rats have two thoracic and two abdominal pairs of mammary glands.

Interesting fact: The set of chromosomes in the main part of the bamboo rat reaches 50, in a small variety of the bamboo rat it is equal to sixty. This is the most important species feature in rodents.

The structure of the skull directly corresponds to the life of a mammal underground. Its shape is compressed, flat in the ventral direction. The zygomatic arches are distinctly expressed and diverge widely to the sides. The caecum has a spiral-like fold.

Where does the bamboo rat live?

Photo: Bamboo rat in nature

Photo: Bamboo rat in nature nature

The habitat of this species ranges from eastern Nepal (2000 m above sea level), through northeastern India, Bhutan, southeastern Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, northwest. Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Bamboo rat species are generally recorded up to about 4000 m above sea level, with some taxa limited to certain altitudes, and the altitudinal range is not constant throughout the known range.

Main habitats of bamboo rats:

  • Nepal;
  • Cambodia;
  • Zaire;
  • Vietnam;
  • India;
  • Uganda;
  • Ethiopia;
  • Laos;
  • Thailand;
  • Somalia;
  • Mallakku Peninsula;
  • Myanmar;
  • Kenya;
  • Tanzania.

Presence uncertain :

  • Bangladesh;
  • Bhutan.

This species has been recorded in a wide variety of habitats, from bamboo forest to cultivated agricultural land and other human-inhabited areas, although it is absent from rice fields. In South Asia, it occurs in temperate montane forests and bamboo forests in subtropical woodlands, and is occasionally found at high altitudes. They are long-lived species with only one or two young in a litter. They also inhabit sandy areas with grassy vegetation. Bamboo rats dig complex underground burrows in the form of tunnels and spend a lot of time in holes.

Now you know where the bamboo rat lives. Let's see what it eats.

What does the bamboo rat eat?

Photo: Bamboo Rat

Photo: Bamboo Rat

Bamboo rats are active mainly in the early morning or evening, when animals appear on the surface of the earth in search of food. They feed on various underground parts of plants, in particular bamboo, as well as seeds and fruits. The main food consumed is bamboo, which gave the name to this secretive animal. They excel at digging the ground. Their diet consists not only of parts of bamboo, they also consume shrubs, young shoots of grasses and other roots, eat seeds and fruits.

During the day, the animals calmly rest in their shelter, and at night they rise to the surface to eat above-ground parts of plants.

Such as:

  • plant sprouts;
  • all kinds of leaves;
  • fallen fruits;
  • various seeds.

Unlike other diggers who simply hide in tunnels, bamboo rats quickly get food, constantly increasing the length of their holes in areas where grass is thick. Having finished nibbling the plant, the animal will block the tunnel from the inside with a cork from the ground. This specialization in nutritional aspect provides an opportunity for a reliable and constant source of food, avoiding competition.

In addition, rats can quickly hide in tunnels at great depths. Bamboo rats often inhabit tea gardens and build burrows and tunnel systems in these areas, damaging and causing irreparable harm to these crops. These rodents are known to be excellent eaters, able to destroy a wide range of food. At night, you can hear the distinctive grunts emitted by bamboo rats, seeking to fill their stomachs with succulent shoots.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Bamboo rat in a hole

Photo: Bamboo rat in a hole

The bamboo rat perfectly digs the ground with its paws and incisors, arranging a complex system of moves, which it constantly improves, complicating and lengthening them. Unlike the Chinese bamboo rat, the rest of the genus tend not to grassy spaces, but to bamboo thickets, which make up the main part of their diet. In the evening, bamboo rats leave their shelter to feed on vegetation. While in captivity, activity peaked early in the morning or evening, and they slept most of the day.

These mammals burrow in grassy areas, forests and gardens. Digging is done not only by their powerful legs, but also by their large incisors. One individual can build several holes, but will live in only one. The tunnels built are simple and include a multi-purpose nesting chamber. These underground tunnels are often very deep. More than fifty meters of moves are made underground per individual.

Fun fact: Lesser bamboo rats move more slowly when above ground and are said to be fearless when the enemy is approaching.

Digging such labyrinths is necessary for a rodent to find food and create a reliable shelter. They move the dug soil with their forelegs under the belly, while with their hind limbs they throw it back. Roots are gnawed off with teeth. When digging, an earthen heap is created, which the bamboo rat moves with its muzzle and rams along the hole. These rats hide their dwelling in tall and dense thickets of plants.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Baby Bamboo Rat

Photo: Baby Bamboo Rat

Bamboo rat can breed year-round, but once a year, maximum two if conditions permit. Breeding peaks during wet seasons. The female brings from 1 to 5 newborn blind and naked babies. They grow and gain weight very quickly. The gestation period lasts about six or seven weeks. Young bamboo rats are able to breed 5-8 months after birth. Newborns, like most other rodents, do not open their eyes until they are 15 days old.

Fun fact: The young remain hairless for most of the nursing period. Weaning and independence from the mother occur at 3-4 weeks of age.

Since the males copulate with one female and then move on to the next, they do not contribute much to the care of the little rats. The young litter remains relatively helpless for about 2 weeks until their hair grows back, their eyes open, and they begin to move more and more actively. Weaning is accompanied by efforts on the part of the mother. Until bamboo rats reach their full adult size, they remain in their mother's nest.

Sexual maturity in males occurs earlier than they are given the opportunity to enter into sexual intimacy. This comes from the fact that there is more competition for access to a female in heat and smaller individuals with less dominant status are difficult to capture the attention of the opposite sex. The females make a nest of rags in a remote part of the tunnel system, where tiny and helpless bamboo rat pups are born.

Bamboo rat's natural enemies

Photo: What a bamboo rat looks like

Photo: What a bamboo rat looks like

Known predators of bamboo rats vary depending on their environment. One possible anti-predator adaptation is the species' color variation and nocturnal habits. Some evidence suggests that color is associated with geographic location and therefore the ability to remain less visible in the local environment.

In addition, bamboo rats are often aggressive towards their occupants and are fiercely defensive with all means at their disposal. Studies show that captive C. badius adopt a typical threatening posture in which they demonstrate a desire to defend themselves. Bamboo rats stand on their hind legs and bare their powerful incisors.

The most likely and currently known predators of bamboo rats include:

  • dogs (Canidae);
  • large owls (Strigiformes);
  • felines (Felidae);
  • lizards (Lacertilia);
  • snakes (Serpentes);
  • wolves (Canis);
  • foxes (Vulpes);
  • humans (Homo Sapiens).

In southern China, Laos and Myanmar, people eat bamboo rats. In addition, people also destroy a very large number of Norwegian bamboo rats, considering them to be pests. They can also be preyed upon by any number of carnivorous mammals, birds, and reptiles that inhabit their shared region.

Some species of rats are considered the greatest mammalian pests of all time. They have caused more deaths than all the wars in history. It is believed that diseases caused by rats have killed more people in the last 1000 years than all the wars and revolutions that have ever been fought. They feed on lice and fleas that carry bubonic plague, typhus, trichinosis, tularemia, infectious jaundice, and many other serious diseases.

Rats also cause significant property damage, including crops, destruction and contamination of human food storage, and as well as damage to the interior and exterior of buildings. It is estimated that rats cause billions of dollars of damage to the world community every year. However, the harm from bamboo rats is minimal.

Population and species status

Photo: Bamboo Rat

Photo: Bamboo Rat

The density of rodent settlements is more than two and a half thousand individuals per 1 square kilometer. This species is listed as Least Concern for Extinction due to its wide distribution, and an expected large number of populations.

It occurs in a number of protected areas, is tolerant of a degree of habitat modification and is unlikely to be found in abundance. decline fast enough to qualify for inclusion in the list of more threatening categories. The animals are believed to be found in protected areas in India and Nepal.

In India they are:

  • Dampa Wildlife Sanctuary;
  • Mizoram Wildlife Sanctuary.

In Nepal it is:

  • royal Chitwan National Park, (Central Nepal);
  • Makalu Barun National Park, (Eastern Nepal).

This species is included in Schedule V (considered as a pest) of the Indian Wildlife Conservancy since 1972. Further research is needed on the distribution, abundance, ecology, and threats of these obscure taxa. Additional taxonomic studies indicate that this taxon may consist of several species, for which a revision of the Red List assessment will be required.

In general, the bamboo rat is quite heavily used in some areas for food production, and in particular, certain populations may decline due to overharvesting. It is also culled as a pest of rubber plantations in parts of its range (such as Myanmar) where it can be found in densities of up to 600 animals per hectare. In South Asia, it is locally threatened by habitat loss, forest fires, and the hunting of bamboo rats for subsistence use.

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