Central rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus)

French: Rat À Grosse Queue
Spanish: Rata Coligorda
GenusZyzomys (1)
Weight70 - 120 g (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR - A1ce+2ce) on the IUCN Red List 2002 and listed on Appendix I of CITES (1).

This medium-sized rodent was believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996 (2). These stocky rock-rats are yellowish-brown in colour and have characteristically 'Roman' noses (2). The thick and furry tail is the same length as the head and body, and the fur on the underbody is cream (2).

Endemic to the southern Northern Territory in Australia, the central rock-rat was first discovered in 1896 (3). Between 1970 and 1995, there were no recorded sightings of the species and it was presumed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996 in the MacDonnell Ranges (2). Today the species is known from 14 sites within this mountain range, to the west of Alice Springs (2).

Found in the arid habitat of central Australia, this rock-rat is associated with tussock and hummock grasslands as well as open woodlands (2).

Very little is known about the behaviour and ecology of this nocturnal species (3). The diet consists mainly of the seeds of grasses, shrubs and forbs; the seeds of members of the genera Sida and Solanum, and those of Glyceine canescens seem to be preferred (2).

The direct threats to this species have not been identified. It is difficult to assess whether the population merely undergoes dramatic fluctuations in response to climate change, or if other factors are also to blame for past population crashes (2). Some potential threats, however, include the loss of habitat through inappropriate fire management, or grazing by feral herbivores such as horses (2). Predation by dingoes may also be a factor that threatens the survival of this species (2).

The majority of sites where the central rock-rat is known to exist are found within the West MacDonnell National Park (2). Captive individuals are being reared in Alice Springs Desert Park (4), and a management plan for wild populations is in the final stages of production (2).

Authenticated (9/12/02) by Gary Fry, Alice Springs Desert Park.

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)