Although the common rock rat’s diet consists mainly of plants, seeds and grains, it is also known to occasionally feed on insects (2) (4).
A nocturnal species (4), the common rock rat lives solely within rocky habitats (6). This species is abundant from September, late in the dry season. However, its population numbers always fall dramatically by the end of the wet season in April (4) (7). The cause of this sharp decline is believed to be death due to stress rather than dispersal caused, among other factors, by the lack of nutritious food available during this time (7).
Common rock rats breed throughout the year but a peak is often observed in April, perhaps due to the increase in seed availability at the end of the wet season (7) (8). Sexual maturity is reached at 4 to 5 months old, and the gestation period for this species is 32 to 34 days (4). Although one to six young may be born (4) (7), litters of two or three are more common (5). Females are able to give birth to several litters each year, generally waiting 2 to 14 months between each litter (4). When the young are large enough, the female common rock rat will drag them around beneath her, attached to her teats (2), and weaning occurs after 35 days (8).
Common rock rats have particularly delicate tails from which hair and flesh will strip with ease. Once the bare skeletal section of the tail is lost, the rock rat will be left with a short stump (4). Fat is stored in the base of the tail, particularly when food is abundant (2), and its thickness is a good indicator of health in this species (7). Loss of the tail could, therefore, be detrimental to an individual common rock rat’s survival when food availability is low (9). Parasitic mites have been found to be a major cause of tail loss in this species (9).