Traditionally the genus Rhabdomys has been seen as a single species, Rhabdomys pumilio, though modern evidence on the basis of karyotype and mtDNA analysis suggests that it comprises a second species, Rhabdomys dilectus .
R. dilectus is divided in the following subspecies.
- R.d.dilectus (karyotypic form 2n = 46): Lesotho, southafrican province of KwaZulu-Natal and eastern Zimbabwe;
- R.d.angolae (Wroughton, 1905): central and southern Angola;
- R.d.diminutus (Thomas, 1893): central and western Kenya, central-eastern Uganda, highlands of central-northern Tanzania, south-east Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Malawi;
Rhabdomys dilectus is a fairly typical smallish murid, rather larger than house mice. Head+body length is between 90 and 135 mm, the length of the tail between 80 and 135 mm, the length of the foot between 17 and 33 mm, the length of the ears between 10.0 and 20 mm and the weight up to 68 g.
The back is dark reddish-brown and displays characteristic black longitudinal stripes. The stripes inspired the generic name, which is derived from the Greek rhabdos meaning rod, giving Rhabdomys, meaning something like "barred mouse". The ventral sides are lighter. The legs are dark grizzled. The tail is shorter than the head and body. It is a terrestrial species, crepuscular and solitary. It feeds mainly on seeds of wheat and partly on plants, berries and small invertebrates. It is considered a plague by farmers.
- Musser, G. G.; Carleton, M. D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 894–1531. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=13001796.
- Castiglia, R., Solano, E., Makundi, R. H., Hulselmans, J., Verheyen, E. and Colangelo, P. (2011), Rapid chromosomal evolution in the mesic four-striped grass rat Rhabdomys dilectus (Rodentia, Muridae) revealed by mtDNA phylogeographic analysis. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2011.00627.x
- Jonathan Kingdon, East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume 2, Part B, University of Chicago Press, 1974
- Mills, Gus and Hes, Lex (1997). The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: Struik Publishers.
- D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder - Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
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