Armored rat

Hoplomys gymnurus

SUBFAMILY

Eumysopinae

TAXONOMY

Echimys gymnurus (Thomas, 1897), Cachavi, Esmereldas Province, Ecuador.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Thick-spined rat; German: Lanzenratte; Spanish: Rata espinosa.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 8.6-12.5 in (22-32 cm); tail 5.9-9.8 in (15-25 cm); weight 7.7 oz to 1.7 lb (218-815 g). Males are considerably bigger (up to 38%) than females. This terrestrial

rodent has very thick and well developed spines, especially on its back where they are up to 1.1 in (3 cm) long and 0.08 in (2 mm) in diameter. Spines on the back are white at the base and tipped with black. On the flanks, they are tipped with orange and banded to the base with dusty orange and black. The spines are loosely fixed to the skin and fall out when the pelage is brushed the wrong way. There is soft fur interspersed with the spines and lying beneath them. Spines are most strongly developed on the mid-back, rump, and thighs. The belly lacks spines and is white. Members of this species can drop their tails to distract predators.

DISTRIBUTION

Southern Honduras through western Colombia to northwest Ecuador. Not found east of the Andes.

HABITAT

Hoplomys gymnurus lives in grassy clearings in rainforest, brush, and deserted farm lands, and has not been recorded at altitudes above 2,625 ft (800 m). The species shows a distinct preference for cooler moist areas, and in dryland forests is found only in forests in moister steep ravines.

BEHAVIOR

The territory is very small and is often centered around a decaying log, under which it may hide in the burrow it digs. This consists of a small chamber with dry leaves at the bottom of a short simple shaft. This species makes runways in dense vegetation.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The diet consists of fruits, seeds, and browse, but insects are also eaten.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Litter size of two to three. Reproduction is seasonal. Young are born furred, with open eyes and the ability to walk. This species may be monogamous, with a territory shared by a mated pair.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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