White-Tailed Rat

White-Tailed Rat.


Name

White-tailed Rat [Mystromys albicaudatus]

Appearance

The White-Tailed Rat is a thickset, mouse-like rodent with soft wooly fur. The body is coated with a buffy-grey coloured fur. Interspersed amongst the fur are black-tipped hairs. The flanks are grey, which merges into pure white on the belly. Feet, hands and tail are a dull white. Head and body measures on average 163 mm and the short tail 58 mm. Average body mass is 111 gr.

Breeding

Breeding occurs throughout the year, females giving birth to litters of four to five pups, each weighing 6,5 gr. at birth. Gestation period is 37 days. Young attach to their mother's nipples until 21 days old, and during this ‘nipple-clinging' period they detach only occasionally. Detach permanently after day 32. Eyes open between 16 and 20 days, and young are completely weaned at the age of 38 days.

Behaviour

The White-Tailed Rat is strictly a nocturnal and terrestrial rodent, emerging at dusk and returning to the refuge of their burrows at dawn. This species is frequently preyed upon by barn owls. Its Habitat is confined to highveld grasslands and montane grasslands.

Where they are found

The White-Tailed Rat is endemic to South Africa, distributed in the lower-lying areas of the Eastern Cape, westwards to the Western Cape. Also found in the highveld of the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, northwestern KwaZulu-Natal from where the range extends into southern Swaziland and Lesotho. Considered rare and endangered and may need conservation measures to ensure survival.

Field notes

The White-tailed Rat holes up in old Meerkat burrows or other holes in the ground during the day. Owls are their biggest predator but also habitat loss has had an effect on their numbers. The White-tailed Rat feeds predominantly on seeds but has been known to eat insects.



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