JUMPING JEHOSAPHAT! IT’S A RAT!
We can all relax. I’ve been told that it can only jump about three feet in the air. Wait a minute—any rat that’s jumping three feet up is a bit creepy, don’t you think? And if that’s not enough, he’s considered a giant rat. Our guest this week is confined to the island of Madagascar, so I don’t think we have a lot to worry about.
Meet the Malagasy Giant Jumping rat.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it looks like a rabbit, and you’re right. This unusual rodent also has powerful hind legs like a rabbit, which allow it to jump. Its back feet are larger than its front, similar to a kangaroo. Thankfully, it rarely uses its ability to jump except in cases where it is escaping a predator.
The Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat is the largest rodent on the island of Madagascar. It has short brown fur and its feet and underside are white. Its long tail is covered with dark stiff hair, and the tail helps the rat to balance, much in the same way that a kangaroo uses its tail.
Photo credit: tumblr.com
The Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat is primarily herbivorous. It goes out at dusk to feed on fallen fruit, seeds and leaves. It also digs for roots and tubers. During the day, the rat remains in its burrow. The entrance to the burrow is covered with debris to protect the rats from predators.
This unusual rat is monogamous, and since it only produces one or two offspring in a year, the rate at which the population increases is slow. It is vulnerable to habitat loss, and predation by dogs, which were introduced to the island. This rat is therefore considered endangered by the IUCN*.
There are two communities of rats, which have been separated by a village. As a result, the northern population has suffered and is in swift decline. The southern population is somewhat protected within the confines of the Kirindy Forest. However, according to edgeofexistence.org, those ‘populations are expected to continue to decline over the next 100 years even if further habitat decline and mortality by roaming dogs can be stopped.’
As with many other species we have discussed, this rodent is part of a bigger ecosystem. The Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat is an important food source for the Fossa, which is indigenous to Madagascar. The Fossa is the largest carnivore on Madagascar and its existence is vulnerable. The decline or extinction of one animal has a profound effect on the entire system. The Fossa is a keystone species, and therefore plays an important role in the ecosystem on Madagascar. Everything’s connected. We’ve said this many times before, but it doesn’t hurt to keep saying it, and to recognize how we are effecting our environment and therefore ourselves.
The Fossa - largest carnivore on Madagascar
Overpopulation of humans and deforestation and destruction of habitats are still the major cause of population decline for many animals. The Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat is one more animal that is threatened by human encroachment.
My thanks to ARKive for some of the pictures and information used in this post.
If you would like to learn more about the Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat, visit the following sites:
Stop by again next week for a look at another unusual animal.
Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author
The Sword of Demelza and The Gift of Sunderland
Middle-Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!