Overview

Brief Summary

Maned or crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi)

The maned or crested rat occurs sea level to 3,300 m above sea level in fragmented localities across eastern Africa in Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It lives in various habitats including scrub forest, semi-desert, dry and moist savanna or woodland and is often found in rocky and forested highland areas. Fossil remains have been discovered in Israel (3,4). Fossil remains have been found as far north as Israel.

The body length is 225-360 mm and the tail length is 140 to 175 mm; the mass is 590-920 g. Females are generally larger than males. Maned rats superficially resemble porcupines. They have relatively short limbs, small ears, bushy tail and a long body. The unique skull has bony projections extend over the eye socket and an enlarged parietal section. It is reinforced by additional bone in some areas. These features may give added protection against attacks. Lophiomys differs from typical Muridae in having the temporal fossa roofed over a thin plate of bone, rudimentary clavicles and an opposable hallux. This led to it being made the type of a family, but its dentition is typical of Cricetines (2).

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, disturbed or excited, the mane erects and this strip parts, exposing the glandular area., which releases foul-smelling chemicals similar to those released by skunks. The tips of hairs in this area are like ordinary hair, but the rest of these hairs is spongy, fibrous, and absorbent. The rat chews the bark of Acokanthera schimperi and smears these hairs with poison from the bark to create a defence mechanism that can sicken or kill predators which try to bite it (1). Maned rats have specialized feet and hands for feeding and climbing (3,4).

This rat is nocturnal and terrestrial. It lives in burrows or holes in rocks on cliff-faces, hollow dead tree trunks, holes along the tops of ravines or in bushy areas near river banks (3,4). It is herbivorous and feeds mainly on leaves, roots, fruit, and other plant material; it is especially fond of the leaves of sweet potato plants. Captives may eat meat, cereals, root vegetables and insects. It sits on its haunches, grasps food using its fore paws and thumbs to manipulate food items and bring them to its mouth (3,4). It does not have to drink often as its diet provides adequate moisture. There is one or 2-3 young in a litter. The young emerge with abundant hair (3).

The Red List Assessment in 2008 was "Least Concern", due to the rat's wide distribution including several protected areas, presumed large population and as its population is not believed to be in decline at present. Maned rats are abundant in some areas of their range (3). There are no major threats known to this species.

  • 1. Welsh, Jennifer (2 August 2011). "Giant Rat Kills Predators with Poisonous Hair". LiveScience.
  • 2. Flower, William Henry; Lydekker, Richard (1891). An Introduction to the Study of Mammals Living and Extinct. A. and C. Black.
  • 3. Kingdon, Jonathan (1974). East African Mammals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. 519-526.
  • 4. Walker (1975)
  • Other references
  • 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, 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 [1] doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1169
  • Schlitter & Agwanda (2004). Lophiomys imhausi. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
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Distribution

Range Description

This species is known from fragmented localities across eastern Africa in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It occurs from sea level to 3,300 m asl.
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Geographic Range

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 )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

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.

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Type Information

Type for Lophiomys imhausi
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.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This is a nocturnal species found in a wide variety of habitats including forest, semi-desert, dry and moist savanna or woodland. It is often found in rocky areas. It is unclear as to whether the species has a single or two to three young in a litter.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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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

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

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).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
7.5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
1.5 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 7.5 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

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.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Schlitter, D. & Agwanda, B.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Cox, N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution including several protected areas, presumed large population, and because its population is not believed to be in decline at present.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
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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

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Population

Population
It is an uncommon species.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats known to this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Further research in to the ecological requirements of the species is needed. Its range includes several protected areas.
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Wikipedia

Maned rat

The maned rat or crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) is a nocturnal, long-haired and bushy-tailed East African rodent that superficially resembles a porcupine.

Characteristics[edit]

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.[1]

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.[2]

Diet[edit]

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.

Habitat[edit]

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.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Welsh, Jennifer (2 August 2011). "Giant Rat Kills Predators with Poisonous Hair". LiveScience. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Flower, William Henry; Lydekker, Richard (1891). An Introduction to the Study of Mammals Living and Extinct. A. and C. Black. 

References[edit]

  • 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 [1] doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1169
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