Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The Big-eared Kangaroo Rat has the longest ears of any kangaroo rat, and weighing in at about 85 g, is one of the largest Dipodomys species in California. It is dark cinnamon in color, with white underparts and brown ears. It lives only in the southern part of the Gabilan Range in San Benito and Monterey Counties, in California. Because of brush fires in the chaparral where it lives, and because of increasing human encroachment on that habitat, the Big-eared Kangaroo Rat is listed as rare by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Predators include owls, foxes, and coyotes.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
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  • Original description: Grinnell, J., 1919.  Five new five-toed kangaroo rats of California, p. 43.  University of California Publications in Zoology, 21:43-47.
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Distribution

endemic to a single state or province

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (<100-250 square km (less than about 40-100 square miles)) Southern portion of Gabilan Range, from vicinity of Pinnacles to near Hernandez, in San Benito and eastern Monterey counties, California; elevation about 390 meters.

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Physical Description

Size

Length: 34 cm

Weight: 91 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females.

Length:
Average: 326 mm males; 323 mm females
Range: 310-336 mm males; 305-323 mm females

Weight:
Average: 85 g
Range: 79-91 g
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Slopes, flats, ridgetops with friable soil in mixed and chamise chaparral in oak/pine woodland zone. Typically under dense vegetation (sympatric DIPODOMYS HEERMANNI occupies adjacent open habitat) (Best 1986). Young are born in underground burrows.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Probably similar to D. HEERMANI which feeds primarily on seeds but also eats insects and green vegetation in the spring.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5

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Global Abundance

2500 - 10,000 individuals

Comments: Rare within range. Estimate is a guess based on the most narrowly defined taxonomic concept of the species.

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Young are born at least during spring and summer. Probably produces an average of 2 young per litter.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T2 - Imperiled

Reasons: Small range in western California; probably adapted to periodic fire in chaparral community, as is D. AGILIS; habitat is under little threat of development; structurally indistinguishable animals are found at widespread localities in adjacent mountains east and south.

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Probably stable.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

Comments: Fire is a major threat to alter habitat, but fire probably poses no major threat to the species.

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Management

Management Requirements: Reduce fuel and maintain habitat through appropriate range and fire management; prevent excessive grazing and destructive wildfires.

Biological Research Needs: Data on all aspects of life history and demography are needed.

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Global Protection: Few (1-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Pinnacles National Monument contains an extant population; degree of specific protection is unknown, however.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Formerly was recognized as a distinct species. Best et al. (1996) examined genic and morphological variation in D. AGILIS, D. ELEPHANTINUS, and D. VENUSTUS and concluded that D. AGILIS is not conspecific with ELEPHANTINUS or VENUSTUS and that ELEPHANTINUS should be regarded as a subspecies of D. VENUSTUS.

See Ryan (1989) for phylogenetic analysis of Heteromyidae based on myology. Characterisitics of the upper premolar indicate that the genus DIPODOMYS, as now conceived, is diphyletic (Dalquest et al. 1992).

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