World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Kangaroo rat

Article Id: WHEBN0000240003
Reproduction Date:

Title: Kangaroo rat  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Xerocole, Ord's kangaroo rat, Giant kangaroo rat, Kangaroo mouse, Lava Beds National Monument
Collection: Dipodomys, Heteromyidae, Piacenzian First Appearances
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kangaroo rat

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, although they are not related.


  • Description 1
    • Locomotion 1.1
  • Ecology 2
    • Range and habitat 2.1
    • Food and foraging 2.2
  • Lifestyle 3
    • Burrow system 3.1
    • Social interactions 3.2
    • Mating and reproduction 3.3
  • Taxonomy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[2] 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,[3] and reportedly up to 9 feet (2.75 m)[4] at speeds up to almost 10 feet/sec, or 10 kph (6 mph).[5] They can quickly change their direction between jumps.[5] The rapid locomotion of the banner-tailed kangaroo rat may minimize energy cost and predation risk.[6] Its use of a "move-freeze" mode may also make it less conspicuous to nocturnal predators.[6]


Range and habitat

Kangaroo rats live in arid and semi-arid areas particularly on sandy or soft soils[2] which are suitable for burrowing. They can, however, vary in both geographic range and habitat. In particular, Merriam's kangaroo rats live in areas of low rainfall and humidity, and high summer temperature and evaporation rates.[7] They can be found in areas of varying elevation, ranging from below sea level to about 4500 feet.[7] They live in areas of stony soils, including clays, gravel and rocks, which are harder than soils preferred by some other species like banner-tail kangaroo rats.[2] Merriam's kangaroo rats live in hot and dry areas, conserve water, and only use metabolic sources.[8] They survive by breaking down of the seeds they eat with their metabolism and not needing to drink water. They can also conserve water by lowering their metabolic rate, which reduces loss of water through their skin and respiratory system.[8]

Banner-tailed kangaroo rats generally live in grasslands and scrublands. They live in dry areas but have more water available to them than Merriam's kangaroo rats. All kangaroo rat species are sensitive to extreme temperatures and remain in their burrows during rain storms and other forms of inclement weather.[2] Kangaroo rats are preyed on by coyotes, foxes, badgers, weasels, owls, and snakes.

Food and foraging

Kangaroo rats are primarily seed eaters.[9] They will, however, sometimes eat vegetation at some times of the year and some insects, too.[2] They have been seen storing the seeds of mesquite, creosote, bush, purslane, ocotillo and grama grass in their cheek pouches. Kangaroo rats will store extra seeds in seed caches.[7] This caching behavior has an impact on the range-land and croplands where the animals live.[2] Kangaroo rats must harvest as much seed as possible in as little time as possible.[9] They need to decrease the time away from their burrows as they are cool and dry. In addition, being away from their burrows also makes them vulnerable to predators.[9]

When on foraging trips, kangaroo rats hoard the seeds that they find. It is important for a kangaroo rat to encounter more food items than are consumed, at least at one point in the year, as well as defend or rediscover food caches and remain within the same areas long enough to utilize food resources.[6] Different species of kangaroo rat may have different seed caching strategies to coexist with each other, as is the case for the banner-tailed kangaroo rat and Merriam's kangaroo rat which have overlapping ranges.[1] Merriam's kangaroo rats scatterhoard small caches of seeds in numerous small, shallow holes they dig.[10] This is initially done close to the food source, maximizing harvest rates and reducing travel costs, but later redistributed more widely, minimizing theft by other rodents.[10] Banner-tailed kangaroo rats larderhoard a sizable cache of seeds within the large mounds they occupy. This could decrease their time and energy expenses; they also spend less time on the surface digging holes, reducing risk of predation. Being larger and more sedentary, they are better able to defend these larders from depredations by other rodents.[10]


Kangaroo rats inhabit overlapping home ranges. These home ranges tend to be small with most activities within 200–300 ft and rarely 600 ft.[2] 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.

Burrow system

Kangaroo rats live in complex burrow systems. The burrows have separate chambers for specific proposes like sleeping, living and food storage.[2] The spacing of the burrows depends on the number of kangaroo rats and the abundance of food. Kangaroo rats also live in colonies that range from six to several hundred dens.[7] The burrow of a kangaroo rat is important in providing protection from the harsh desert environment. To maintain a constant temperature and relative humidity in their burrows, kangaroo rats plug the entrances with soil during the day.[2] When the outside temperature is too hot, a kangaroo rat stays in its cool, humid burrow and leaves it only at night.[8] To reduce loss of moisture through respiration when sleeping, a kangaroo rat buries its nose in its fur to accumulate a small pocket of moist air.[8] The burrows of Merriam's kangaroo rats are simpler and shallower than those of banner-tailed kangaroo rats. Banner-tailed kangaroo rats also mate in their burrows, unlike Merriam's kangaroo rats.

Social interactions

Kangaroo rats are generally solitary animals with little social organization. They do cluster together in some feeding situations. Groups of kangaroo rats that exist are aggregations and colonies.[2] There appears to be a dominance hierarchy among male kangaroo rats in competition for access to females.[11] Male kangaroo rats are generally more aggressive than females and are more dominant over them. Females are more tolerant of each other than males are and have more non-aggressive interactions. This is likely in part because the home ranges of females overlap less than the home ranges of males.[11] Linear dominance hierarchies appear to exist among males but it is not known if this is the case for females.[11] Winners of aggressive encounters appear to be the most active individuals.

Mating and reproduction

Kangaroo rats have a promiscuous mating system. Their reproductive output is highest in summer following high rainfalls.[12] During droughts and food shortages, only a few females will breed.[2] It appears that kangaroo rats can assess their local conditions and adjust their reproductive efforts accordingly.[12] Merriam's kangaroo rats breed between February and May and produce two or three litters per year.[1] 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 period of time, perhaps to ensure greater chances of producing offspring. Mating in banner-tailed kangaroo rats involve more chasing and foot drumming in the male before the females allows him to mate.[13] Banner-tailed kangaroo rats mate on mounds and the more successful males chase away rival males.[13] The gestation period of kangaroo rats lasts 22–27 days.

The young are born in a fur-lined nest in the burrows. They are born blind and hairless.[1] For the first week, young Merriam kangaroo rats crawl, and develop their hind legs in their second or third week.[7] At this time, the young become independent. Banner-tailed kangaroo rat are weaned between 22–25 days. Offspring remain in the mound for 1-6 more months in the maternal caches.[12]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d Nader, I.A. 1978. Kangaroo rate: Intraspecific Variation in Dipodomus spectabilis Merriami and Dipodomys deserti Stephens. Chicago, University of Illinois Press.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Howard, V.W. 1994. Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. S.E. Hygynstrom, R.M. Timm and G.E. Larson. New Mexico, (Cooperative Extension Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Animal Damage Control, Great Plains Agricultural Council: Wildlife Committee). B101-B104.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ a b c d e Reynolds, H.G. 1958. " The Ecology of the Merriam Kangaroo Rat ( Dipodomys merriami Mearns) on the Grazing Lands of Southern Arizona." Ecological Monographs (28):2 111–127.
  8. ^ a b c d Lidicker, W.Z. 1960. An Analysis of Intraspecific Variation in the Kangaroo Rat Dipodomus merriami. Berkeley and Los Angelos, University of California Press.
  9. ^ a b c Morgan, K.R. and M.V. Price. 1992. "Foraging in Heteromyid Rodents: The Energy Cost of Scratch-Digging." Ecology (73):6 2260–2272.
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^ a b c Newmark, J.E. and S.H. Jenkins. 2000. "Sex Differences in Agonistic Behavior of Merriam's Kangaroo Rats ( Dipodomys merriami)." American Midland Naturalist. (143):2 377–388.
  12. ^ a b c Waser, P.M. and T.W. Jones. 1991. " Survival and Reproductive Effort in Banner-Tailed Kangaroo Rats." Ecology. (72) :3 771-777.
  13. ^ a b Randall, J.A. 1987. "Field Observation of Male Competition and Mating in Merriam's and Bannertail Kangaroo Rats" American Midland Naturalist. (117):1 211-213.
  • Patton, J. L. 2005. Family Heteromyidae. pp. 844–858 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.