Mammal Species of the World
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Dipodomys venustus is found in the coastal mountain range of central California, from the tip of the San Francisco peninsula to slightly north of Santa Barbara.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
- Best, 1992. *Dipodomys venustus*. Mammalian Species, 403: 1-4.
- Hawbecker, 1940. The Burrowing and Feeding Habits of *Dipodomys Venustus*. Journal of Mammalogy, 21: 388-396.
endemic to a single state or province
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) The range includes coastal mountains of west-central California; the species is historically known from San Mateo County southward to San Luis Obispo County, and east to San Benito County; from near sea level to 1,770 meters (Best 1992, Best et al. 1996).
Subspecies D. v. venustus: historical range is apparently limited to one locality in San Mateo County (Jasper Ridge near the Stanford campus), two locations in western Santa Clara County (Stanford and near Saratoga), and the rest in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Santa Cruz County; the current range is apparently restricted to one location near Felton in Santa Cruz County (J. L. Patton, Caitlin Bean, pers. comm., 2004). Records from Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range of Santa Clara County, and from Fremont Peak in northern San Benito County, likely are based on misidentifications (J. L. Patton, Caitlin Bean, pers. comm., 2004). The range description in Wilson and Ruff (1999) is incorrect.
Subspecies D. v. sanctiluciae: coastal mountains south of Monterey Bay southward to the Santa Lucia Mountains east of Morro Bay, and east to the Salinas Valley, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties (T. L. Best, in Wilson and Ruff 1999; Caitlin Bean, unpublished map, 2004).
Subspecies D. v. elephantinus: southern portion of Gabilan Range, from vicinity of the Pinnacles to near Hernandez, in San Benito and eastern Monterey counties, California (T.L. Best, in Wilson and Ruff 1999); elevation about 390 meters (Best 1986).
D. venustus is a darkly colored, five-toed rodent that is medium-sized for its genus. By human standards, it is pretty cute, having large eyes set in a narrow face. The nose and ears are black. There are yellowish hairs on the back, which are more prominent on the sides, giving the flanks a lighter coloration. The cheeks and the ventrum are light colored.
Males weigh approximately 83 g (range 70 to 97 g) with females averaging about 82 g (range 68 to 96 g). There is sexual dimorphism in length, with males being longer (about 318.2 mm for males, compared with 313.5 mm for females), and having longer hind feet. The basal length of cranium, greatest length of cranium, maxillary arch spread, width of maxillary arch, greatest depth of cranium, greatest width of cranium, and zygomatic width are also larger in the males.
Range mass: 68 to 97 g.
Average mass: 82-83 g.
Range length: 293 to 330 mm.
Average length: 313.5-318.2 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
- Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Length: 34 cm
Weight: 91 grams
Size in North America
Average: 318 mm males; 314 mm females
Range: 295-332 mm males; 292-330 mm females
Average: 83 g males; 82 g females
Range: 70-97 g males; 68-96 g females
Other kangaroo rats in the range of this species have much paler pelage; D. agilis has much smaller ears and usually a shorter tail; D. elephantinus is larger, with brownish rather than blackish ears; D. heermanni has shorter ears (Whitaker 1996).
Habitat and Ecology
This kangaroo rat is a burrowing rodent that usually dwells in soft, sandy, well-drained soil, where the associated vegetation generally consists of chaparral or chaparral interspersed with oak or digger pine.
The average rainfall in this range is about 75 cm, with the majority of it falling in the winter (November-March). The dry months are offset by a consistently present fog bank, which helps maintain moisture levels in the region.
D. venustus is found at elevations from sea level to 1,770 m. It typically inhabits slopes.
Range elevation: 0 to 1770 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate
Terrestrial Biomes: chaparral
Comments: Subspecies venustus and sanctiluciae inhabit chaparral and chaparral mixed with oaks or digger pine, including sandy, well-drained, and deep soils that have been disturbed by human activity, typically on steep slopes. Shelters and nests are in underground burrows; burrows have been found in open, abandoned agricultural land; one individual may have multiple burrows. Subspecies elephantinus occurs on slopes, flats, and 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.
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 venustus feeds primarily on the ripe seeds of annual plants, with the achene (a small, dry, one-seeded fruit) of H. grandiflora (telegraph weed) being a preferred food. D. venustus makes one or several caches of seeds in its primary burrow, and makes many storage caches within close proximity of the entrance to its burrow. This species consumes very little free water, getting the vast majority from food. However, unlike other members of the genus, it must have some access to free water.
Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Granivore )
- Church, 1969. Evaporative Water Loss and Gross effects of Water Privation in the Kangaroo Rat, *Dipodomys venustus*. Journal of Mammalogy, 50: 514-523.
Comments: Eats seeds of annuals; also some green vegetation; caches seeds underground or in surface pits.
D. venustus contributes in dispersing seeds. It is probably also important to the diets of some predators.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Information is limited regarding the predators of D. venustus. D. venustus bones are not found in the pellets of associated barn owls, suggesting D. venustus is not part of the owl's diet. However, it is likely that these animals fall prey to many of the standard predators of rodents in the region, including hawks, falcons, owls, coyotes, fox, bobcats, and house cats.
- coyotes (Canis latrans)
- gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
- bobcats (Lynx rufus)
- hawks (Accipitridae)
- falcons (Falconidae)
- domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 6 - 80
Comments: The three subspecies are known from roughly 50 locations (Caitlin Bean, unpublished map, 2004) that represent probably no more than three dozen distinct occurrences, and not all of these are extant.
Subspecies venustus is currently known from just one extant population (Caitlin Bean, pers. comm., 2004).
10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000.
Life History and Behavior
Little is known about the communication of D. venustus. However, within the genus, animals are known communicate with a combination of vocalizations, foot drumming, and scents. Dustbathing is common in some species, and allow animals to both spread their scents and detect the scents of others.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks ; vibrations
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Information on the lifespan of this species was not available in the literature. However, one member of the same genus, D. ordii lived for nearly 10 years in captivity.
The mating system of this species has not been described. However, within the genus Dipodomys, there is a tendency for males and females to come together only for mating purposes. Males and females inhabit separate burrows. In some species, males may attract females using foot drumming.
Female D. venustus have one to two litters per year with two to four young per litter. Data on seasonality of breeding are limited, although one nest was excavated in late May in which a mostly helpless baby was found.
Although the gestation period of this species has not been reported, within the genus Dipodomys gestations generally range from 29-36 days. The average female cycle is about 12 days in length. Birth weights range from 3-6 g. Young typically remain n the nest for 4 or 5 weeks, and can reach reproductive maturity as young as 2 months of age.
Breeding interval: These kangaroo rats usually produce one litter per year. Under good conditions, a female may produce two litters per year.
Breeding season: The breeding season has not been officially described, but would appear to occur in the spring months.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.
Range gestation period: 29 to 36 days.
Range weaning age: 4 to 5 weeks.
Range time to independence: 4 to 5 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 (low) months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 (low) months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous
As in all mammals, the female provides extensive parental care, nursing the young until they are able to eat solid foods. Mothers care for their young in a nest within a burrow. Young are born helpless, so the nest environment is an important source of protection for them while they are young.
No male parental care has been reported for these animals, and the males and females live separately.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- Best, 1992. *Dipodomys venustus*. Mammalian Species, 403: 1-4.
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Produces 1-2 litters of 2-4 young each year (see Best 1992).
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
D. venustus is not threatened or endangered
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Small range in west-central California; has declined in the northern part of the range as a result of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation.
The three subspecies are known from roughly 50 locations (Caitlin Bean, unpublished map, 2004) that represent probably no more than three dozen distinct occurrences, and not all of these are extant. Subspecies venustus is currently known from just one extant population (Caitlin Bean pers. comm., 2004). The total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: For the species as a whole, the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are now relatively stable or declining at a rate of less than 10% over 10 years or three generations.
Subspecies venustus: Declining in range and abundance. Recent extirpations have occurred (Caitlin Bean, pers. comm., 2004).
Subspecies elephantinus: probably stable.
Subspecies sanctiluciae: unknown but probably relatively stable.
Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%
Comments: Extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size have declined in the northern part of the range.
Degree of Threat: Medium
Comments: Subspecies venustus: Primary threats include habitat loss/degradation and fragmentation as a result of urbanization, residential development, and sand mining.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
D. venustus minimally consumes the seeds of cultivated crops.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Narrow-faced kangaroo rat
- Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.) (2008). Dipodomys venustus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- Patton, J. L. (2005). "Family Heteromyidae". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 849. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Subspecies elephantinus 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. This arrangement was adopted by Baker et al. (2003) and Patton (in Wilson and Reeder 2005).