Giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens)

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Giant kangaroo rat outside burrow
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Giant kangaroo rat fact file

Giant kangaroo rat description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyHeteromyidae
GenusDipodomys (1)

The giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens) is the largest of more than 20 species of kangaroo rats, which are small rodents that (as their name would suggest) move by hopping on their back legs. The front limbs are reduced and used only for digging, whist the hind limbs are long and powerful and the exceptionally long tail is used for balance (4). The hind legs can propel an individual in leaps of over 2 metres when escaping from predators (2). As with other kangaroo rats, this species has large eyes, small rounded ears and a somewhat rounded body (5). The fur is buff-coloured, and it has a white belly and a white stripe across the hindquarters. The tufted tail is dark but has white lines along either side (5).

Size
Total length: 31.2 - 34.8 cm (2)
Tail length: 15.7 - 19.4 cm (2)
Average male weight: 157g (3)
Average female weight: 151g (3)
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Giant kangaroo rat biology

These nocturnal animals hide in their burrows during the heat of the day, plugging the burrow entrance with loose soil and only emerging at night (2) (6). They are solitary and territorial, advertising their territory with a loud drumming produced by the thumping of the hind feet (2). Burrows tend to be fairly shallow and contain many connected enlarged chambers; one that acts as a nest and the rest used to store food (7). Kangaroo rats feed on seeds, vegetation and insects, storing a cache of seeds to see them through periods of drought (1). In years of good rainfall, a female may give birth to up to three litters and individuals born that year may themselves begin breeding when only 12 to 13 weeks old (2).

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Giant kangaroo rat range

The giant kangaroo rat is endemic to the San Joaquin Valley in California, USA (1).

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Giant kangaroo rat habitat

Giant kangaroo rats are found in dry areas that receive less than 15 centimetres of rainfall each year, in well-drained sandy soils that are sparsely populated by annual grassland (2) (3).

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Giant kangaroo rat status

The giant kangaroo rat is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Giant kangaroo rat threats

Population numbers of the giant kangaroo rat plummeted during the 20th Century (1), mainly as a result of habitat loss as desert areas were converted to agriculture (7). Over 95 percent of the former range of this species has been lost due to a combination of overgrazing, cultivation, mining operations and the introduction exotic plants (1).

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Giant kangaroo rat conservation

The giant kangaroo rat is listed as Endangered by the California Fish and Game Commission and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (1). A Recovery Plan has been developed in an effort to secure the future survival of this species (8), and populations are protected within the Carrizo Plan Natural Heritage Reserve and a number of Federal lands (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Authentication

Authenticated (18/06/08) by Dr. David J. Hafner, Chair and Curator, Biosciences Department, New Mexico Museum of Natural History.
http://www.nmnaturalhistory.org

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Endangered Species Recovery Program, California (April, 2003)
    http://arnica.csustan.edu/esrpp/gkrprofl.htm
  3. Williams, D.F., Byrne, S. and Rado, T.A. (1992) Endangered and Sensitive Species of the San Joaquin Valley, California. California Energy Commission, California.
  4. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Desert USA (April, 2003)
    http://www.desertusa.com/aug96/du_krat.html
  6. Hafner, D.J. (2008) Pers. comm.
  7. California Bureau of Land Management (April, 2003)
    http://www.blm.gov/ca/forms/wildlife/details.php?metode=serial_number&search=2603&detaillabelc=Giant%20Kangaroo%20Rat&detaillabels=Dipodomys%20ingens
  8. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (April, 2003)
    http://ecos.fws.gov/species_profile/servlet/gov.doi.species_profile.servlets.SpeciesProfile?spcode=A08P
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Image credit

Giant kangaroo rat outside burrow  
Giant kangaroo rat outside burrow

© John Roser

John Roser
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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