Malagasy giant rat

Hypogeomys antimena

SUBFAMILY

Nesomyinae

TAXONOMY

Hypogeomys antimena Grandidier, 1869, Madagascar.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Malagasy rat/mouse.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Large rodents: head and body length 11.8-19.6 in (300-500 mm); tail 8.2-19.6 in (210-500 mm). Their ears are quite large, reaching 2.3 in (60 mm) in length. They tend to sit back on their well-muscled haunches and long hind feet and are excellent jumpers and runners. The fur is coarse and short; their dorsal fur is gray, brown, or reddish, and the fur on their belly, feet, and hands is white. The dark tail is covered with stiff hairs.

DISTRIBUTION

West coast of Madagascar.

HABITAT

Found only in the sandy forests of western coastal Madagascar. They construct long, deep burrows in the sandy soil.

BEHAVIOR

Nocturnal, emerging from their burrows at nightfall to search for food.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Eat mainly fallen fruit.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Very little is known. They give birth to single young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Threatened by habitat destruction as the virgin forests of Madagascar are cut and burned for agriculture by a burgeoning human population. Populations have decreased in number and range in recent years; they are listed as Endangered by IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Along with other nesomyine rodents, they are remarkable examples of an adaptive radiation into unoccupied niches on Madagascar. They are significant as a kind of natural experiment in murid evolution. They may also be important in dispersing seeds of native vegetation, though little research has been done on their ecosystem roles and ecology. ♦

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