Lophiomys imhausi is found in Eastern Africa. They have been recorded from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Fossil remains have been discovered in Israel (Kingdon 1974 ; Walker 1975).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Lophiomys imhausi body length ranges from 225 to 360 mm and tail length from 140 to 175 mm. Females are generally larger than males. Maned rats have relatively short limbs and a long body.
Lophiomys imhausi has a unique skull. Bony projections extend over the eye socket and the parietal section is enlarged. Additionaly, the skull is reinforced by additional bone in some areas. These special features are presumed to be for added protection against attacks.
Maned rat fur color ranges from light gray to dark black or dark brown with patterns of white stripes, spots, and/or blotches. Their tail is bushy and they have small ears. They are able to erect their fur by means of their complex glandular system. The glandular system then releases foul smelling chemicals similar to chemicals that are released by skunks. This behavior is a response to being disturbed or threatened. Maned rats have specialized feet and hands for feeding as well as climbing (Kingdon 1974; Walker 1975).
Range mass: 590 to 920 g.
Catalog Number: USNM 181789
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Heller
Year Collected: 1911
Locality: Mount Gargues (Uaragess), North Creek, Mathews Range, Rift Valley, Kenya, Africa
Elevation (m): 1829
- Type: Heller, E. 1912 Jul 05. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 59 (16): 4.
Habitat and Ecology
Lophiomys imhausi is found in woodlands and most frequently in highland areas. However, they are also found in lowlands, such as those of Somalia. They live in burrows or holes in rocks, hollow dead tree trunks, holes near ravines, or in the bushy areas near river banks (Kingdon 1974 ; Walker 1975).
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest
Maned rats are herbivorous, normally feeding on fruits and roots. However, when brought into captivity they will eat roots, cereals, and animal foods as well. They are especially fond of the leaves of sweet potato plants. They do not have to drink often because the foods they consume provide adequate moisture. While eating, maned rats take a sitting position, then grasp the food in their hands using their thumbs to manipulate the food and bring it to their mouth (Kingdon 1974; Walker 1975).
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 7.5 years.
Status: captivity: 1.5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Little is known of reproduction in maned rats. It is thought they have two to three young per litter. These young emerge with abundant hair (Kingdon 1974).
Average number of offspring: 1.75.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2004Least Concern
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern
Maned rats are abundant in some areas of their range (Kingdon 1974).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
The maned rat's body can grow up to 14 inches (360 mm) long, or 21 inches (530 mm) from head to tail. The coat consists of long, silver and black-tipped guard hairs over a dense, woolly, grey and white undercoat, with the face and limbs having short, black fur. A mane of longer, coarser black-and-white banded hairs extends from the top of the animal's head to just beyond the base of the tail. This mane is bordered by a broad, white-bordered strip of hairs covering an area of glandular skin.
When the animal is threatened or excited, the mane erects and this strip parts, exposing the glandular area. The hairs in this area are, at the tips, like ordinary hair, but are otherwise spongy, fibrous, and absorbent. The rat is known to deliberately smear these hairs with poison from the bark of the Acokanthera schimperi, on which it chews, thus creating a defense mechanism that can sicken or even kill predators which attempt to bite it.
Lophiomys differs from typical Muridae in having the temporal fossa roofed over a thin plate of bone, rudimentary clavicles, and an opposable hallux. On these grounds, it has been made the type of a family; its dentition, however, is typical Cricetine.
Its diet in the wild consists largely of leaves, fruit, and other plant material, but has been known to eat meat, cereals, root vegetables, and insects in captivity. Food is eaten by sitting on its haunches and using its forepaws to bring food items to its mouth.
The habitat of the maned rat ranges from nearly sea level, in Ethiopia and Somalia, to more typically the drier, highland forests and woodlands of Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Fossil remains have been found as far north as Israel, however. They are often found in rocky areas or in hollow tree trunks and holes along the tops of ravines, and have also been found nesting among rocks on cliff-faces.
- Welsh, Jennifer (2 August 2011). "Giant Rat Kills Predators with Poisonous Hair". LiveScience. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Flower, William Henry; Lydekker, Richard (1891). An Introduction to the Study of Mammals Living and Extinct. A. and C. Black.
- Schlitter & Agwanda (2004). Lophiomys imhausi. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
- Jansa, S. A. and M. Weksler. 2004. Phylogeny of muroid rodents: relationships within and among major lineages as determined by IRBP gene sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 31:256-276.
- Kingdon, Jonathan. East African Mammals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. 519-526.
- Jonathan Kingdon, Bernard Agwanda, Margaret Kinnaird, Timothy O'Brien, Christopher Holland, Tom Gheysens, Maxime Boulet-Audet and Fritz Vollrath 2011 A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat Proc. R. Soc. B  doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1169