Mammal Species of the World
Click here for The American Society of Mammalogists species account
Dipodomys californicus is found in California as far south as San Francisco Bay and north to south-central Oregon. This species occurs on the floor of the Sacramento Valley and below 400 m in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. (Grinnell, 1922)
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Southern Oregon south through California to S.F. Bay region; chiefly east of humid coastal region to foothills of Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada (Kelt 1988). Isolated subspecies EXIMIUS on Sutter (Marysville) Buttes may be extinct.
Dipodomys californicus ranges from 260 to 340 mm in total length. The tail is longer than the body at 152 to 217 mm in length. Like all kangaroo rats, these animals have large hind feet and small forefeet. Each of their feet has four toes. They have large eyes and ears and silky fur. They are dark colored on top, ranging from cinnamon to nearly black, and are very light underneath. Their long, well furred tail is tufted with white at the tip. They have external cheekpouches on each side of their face. The dental formula of D. californicus is 1/1 0/0 1/1 3/3. Males and females are similar although males tend to be slightly larger. The head-body length of these animals ranges from 260 to 340 mm. In general, D. californicus increase in size towards northern California and Oregon. The juveniles can be differentiated from the adults only by tooth wear and skull characteristics. The species can be differentiated from similar species such as Dipodomys deserti and Dipodomys merriami by their coloration and size. Dipodomys deserti is larger, D. merriami is smaller, and both species are lighter in color. Dipodomys californicus also has a broader face than either of these two species. (Kelt, 1988)
Range length: 260 to 340 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Size in North America
Average: 307.3 mm males; 304.8 mm females
Range: 260-340 mm
Range: 60-85 g
Dipodomys californicus inhabits open grasslands or open areas in mixed chaparral. It prefers areas that get less than 50 cm of precipitation per year, and requires well drained soils that are suitable for burrowing. This species requires fine sand or soil for dust bathing. It is found from elevations of 60 to 400 m (Brylski, 2001; Kelt, 1988)
Range elevation: 60 to 400 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: chaparral
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Well-drained soils of valley grasslands, open chaparral, and open foothill woodland. In underground burrow when inactive; burrows at base of shrub, under rock; may use grnd. squirrel burrow. Uses paths of other animals, trails, dirt roads.
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.
Dipodomys californicus eats mostly seeds and berries. It also consumes some tubers, green vegetation, and may eat a few insects. Individuals of this species make small food caches by burying food in an area near their burrow. Dipodomys californicus seems to prefer manzanita berries in the fall and green vegetation in the spring. They don't need a source a fesh water as they get water from their diet and through metabolic processes. This is widely thought to be an adaptation to life in an arid climate (Kelt, 1988; Nowak, 1995).
Foods eaten include: manzanita seeds and berries, Ceanothus seeds, rabbitbrush, lupines, bur-clover, insects, wild oats, small tubers and green vegetation.
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Granivore )
Comments: Diet includes seeds, green vegetation, small fruits (e.g. manzanita).
Although this species is preyed upon by by several natural predators, it probably does not constitute a significant portion of their diets. Kangaroo rats in general are solitary and do not occur in high concentrations. They do aid in the dispersal of seeds as they don't eat every seed they stash. They are hosts to several species of flea and one species of tick. (Kelt, 1988)
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Dipodomys californicus is preyed upon chiefly by stealthy hunters such as foxes and owls, so the large auditory bullae found in this species may be an adaptation to improve hearing and thus ability to detect predators. The very long hind legs and feet are an adaptation to enable kangaroo rats to escape quickly by ricocheting-type locomotion, and are found in all members of the genus. (Eisenberg, 1963)
- swift foxes (Vulpes velox)
- owls (Strigiformes)
- snakes (Serpentes)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Dipodomys californicus is not very vocal. Individuals of this species use scent marks and foot drumming to communicate with conspecifics. They mark their territory with scent and if they detect another kangaroo rat nearby, they hit their hind feet on the ground to create vibrations that signal to the other kangaroo rat to go away. No one is exactly sure how much is communicated by footdrumming, but some species of kangaroo rats have very complex footdrumming patterns. (Shier et al., 1999)
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks ; vibrations
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Comments: Becomes active soon after dark.
No data were found relating specifically to D. californicus. An individual of D. ordii is known to have lived in captivity for 9 years and 10 months. (Nowak, 1995; Nowak, 1999)
The mating system of these animals has not been described in the literature.
There isn't much data available on the specific reproductive behavior of D. californicus. Breeding may occur year-round if the conditions are favorable, but is most likely to occur between February and September, peaking from February to April. A female may produce as many as 3 litters per year. Their estrous cycles may be effected by food availability. There are 2 to 4 altricial young per litter.
Within the genus Dipodomys, gestation lasts 29 to 36 days. Birth weights vary between 3 and 6 g. The time until weaning apparently varies, as Dipodomys nitratoides weans its young between 21 and 24 days, and Dipodomys panamintinus weans its young between 27 and 29 days. However, the young of Dipodomys ordii remain in their natal nest for 4 to 5 weeks, indicating that the time of weaning may be later than in the other species mentioned. Individuals of other species in the genus Dipodomys have been known to reach sexual maturity as early as 2 months of age.
(Grinnell, 1922; Kelt ,1988; Nowak ,1995; Nowak, 1999)
Breeding season: February through September
Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Parental care for the altricial young is solely a female occupation, as these mice are strictly solitary outside of the interaction between mother and offspring. Females nurse the young in a protected burrow until they are ready to disperse. (Nowak, 1999)
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Breeds mainly February-September, greatest activity February-April. Litter size is 2-4. May produce more than one litter annually (Kelt 1988).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Dipodomys californicus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dipodomys californicus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Kangaroo rats have no special conservation status.
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
D. californicus may have a slight impact on grain crops. (Eisenberg, 1963)
Negative Impacts: crop pest
This species has no obvious benefit to humans.
California kangaroo rat
The California kangaroo rat is endemic to the Western United States, found in Northern California and southern Oregon.  Habitats include the (U.S.) Its distribution is from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Suisun Bay, and northwards in the California Coast Ranges to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.  California's Kangaroo Mountain was likely named after the California kangaroo rat.
Dipodomys californicus was formerly included as a subspecies of Dipodomys heermanni, but differs enough in chromosomal and biochemical characteristics to warrant being recognized as a distinct species. 
- Linzey, A. V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.) (2008). Dipodomys californicus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- Patton, J. L. (2005). "Family Heteromyidae". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 844–845. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- National Museum of Natural History: Dipodomys californicus . accessed 3.29.2013
- Bright, William (1998). 1500 California Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning. University of California Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-520-21271-8.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly included as a subspecies of D. heermanni (Hall 1981), but differs enough in chromosomal and biochemical characteristics to warrant species status (Patton et al. 1976). Baker et al. (2003) and Patton (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized D. californicus as a distinct species.