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Brief Summary

    Eastern woodrat: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    The eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), also known as the Florida woodrat or bush rat is a pack rat native to the central and Eastern United States. It constructs large dens that may serve as nests for many generations and stores food in outlying caches for the winter. While widespread and not uncommon, it has declined or disappeared in several areas.

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Neotoma floridana can be found from southern South Dakota, south to eastern Texas, east through central Florida, north to the western and Piedmont areas of Maryland, and west following the Appalachian Mountains toward southwestern Nebraska. Some individuals have been found as far east as coastal North Carolina and as far west as Colorado.

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Neotoma floridana is known for its short, stocky body and exceptionally long tail. The tail can be between 15 to 20 cm long. Eastern woodrats have long, soft fur which tends to be a brownish-gray on the back. The fur is darker dorsally and the underside and feet are white. The tail is bicolored; dark brown on the top and white on the bottom. There is a noted seasonal change in pelage color. In winter the dorsal pelage is dark brown to grayish and the sides tend to have a yellowish color. This fades around March to become a more uniform brown color during the rest of the year. The eyes are large, black and tend to appear bulging.

    Newborn woodrats have folded pinnae and closed eyes. Birth weight is about 11 to 14 g and length is 87 to 96 mm. The ears unfold at around 9 days and the eyes open in 15 to 21 days. The first molt occurs at 5 to 6 weeks and the second molt follows immediately after the first.

    Adults have an average weight of 275 g and average length of 38 cm.

    Range mass: 217 to 333 g.

    Range length: 34 to 43 cm.

    Average length: 38 cm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Neotoma floridana is an eastern woodland species but has also been observed in the grasslands of the Midwest and coastal areas of the Southeast. Eastern woodrats inhabit deciduous forests in mountainous areas, swamps and marshes in coastal areas, and sometimes inhabit abandoned buildings.

    Range elevation: 1740 (high) m.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

    Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

    Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eastern woodrats are known for their foraging and caching habits. They store fruits, seeds, and leaves in their large middens to eat during the winter. They also include many non-food items in midden collections, such as jewelry, paper wads, bottle caps, and other shiny objects, which they seem to be curious about. In one study, Martin et al. (1951) reported that 5 to 10% of their diet was made up of oak (Quercus) acorns. Two to five percent of the diet is made up of greenbrier (Smilax species), goldenrod (Solidago), and prickly pear (Opuntia). Sumac (Rhus), mesquite (Prosopis), and walnut (Juglans), each constituted 0.5% of the diet. Insects are reported as making up a very small portion of the diet as well.

    Animal Foods: insects

    Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

    Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Granivore , Lignivore)

Associations

    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eastern woodrats are known for their large middens, which may become valuable habitat to other animals. They are prey for raptors, large snakes, and mammalian predators, and they influence plant communities through their seed predation and caching. Common parasites of this species include: warble flies (Cuterebra species), ticks (Ixodes species), mites (Eutrombicula species), fleas (Orchopeas species), chiggers (Trombicula species), and nematodes (Longistriata species).

    Commensal/Parasitic Species:

    • warble flies (Cuterebra species)
    • ticks (Ixodes species)
    • mites (Eutrombicula species)
    • fleas (Orchopeas species)
    • chiggers (Trombicula species)
    • nematodes (Longistriata species)
    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The most common predators of eastern woodrats are great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius), long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata), black snakes (Elaphe species), and timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Eastern woodrats avoid predation by being mostly active at night, taking refuge in their large dens, and being vigilant for predator activity. They are also cryptically colored.

    Known Predators:

    • great horned owls (Bubo virginianus)
    • spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius)
    • long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata)
    • black snakes (Elaphe species)
    • timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus)

    Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eastern woodrats only squeal during fights or if injured. Typically, noises are made by grinding teeth or thumping the hind feet. The thumping usually occurs as a result of anger or fear. They have a highly developed sense of smell and their hearing is also extremely good. The vibrissae located at the front of the face are used for tactile sensing and help rats navigate in the dark.

    Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

    Other Communication Modes: vibrations

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eastern woodrats have been reported living up to 8.6 years. Most eastern woodrat mortality, however, occurs in the first year of life.

    Range lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    8.6 (high) years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    3.0 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Mating relationships are first determined by establishing dominance. If the male establishes dominance then most likely the pairing will result in offspring. If the female becomes dominant then the male is often killed during fighting. When a successful mating pair is established, the male will follow the female around drumming his hind feet and sniffing the perineal area of the female. If the female is receptive, she will assume a position ideal for copulation. If copulation does not happen immediately, the female will start to pursue the male. She follows him around until copulation occurs. Once breeding is complete, the pair does not associate further and males are likely to try and make other attempts at breeding.

    Mating System: polygynous

    Breeding season is typically from February to August, although there are some instances of year-round breeding. The gestation period is 31 to 36 days. When young are born they are cleaned then immediately attach to a teat. Young remain attached to one of their mother's teats until they are 3 to 4 weeks old. The litter size ranges from 1 to 6, with 2 and 4 being most common. Females born early in the year may breed as early as their first summer, males begin to breed in the year after their birth.

    Breeding interval: Females generally give birth once a year.

    Breeding season: Neotoma floridana breeds from February to August and sometimes into late September.

    Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

    Average number of offspring: 3.

    Range gestation period: 31 to 36 days.

    Range weaning age: 3 to 4 weeks.

    Range time to independence: 70 to 90 days.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 to 6 months.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

    Average birth mass: 13.43 g.

    Average number of offspring: 3.5.

    Females are responsible for all parental care. Young are born in an altricial state, with their eyes and ears closed. After young are born, females defend the nest and nurse the young for 3 to 4 weeks. They remain attached to her teats until they are weaned and then disperse at from 70 to 90 days old. The caching behavior of the mother has also been shown to influence future caching behavior in offspring.

    Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    While Neotoma floridana is considered secure globally, there are a few subspecies in certain regions that are of concern. Neotoma floridana illinoensis has been considered a species of special concern and is monitored by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Neotoma floridana floridana is considered threatened by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Neotoma floridana smalli (Key Largo woodrats) is listed as endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. According to McCleery et al. (2006), the decline in the population is due to habitat fragmentation and degradation, parasites, and predation by feral cats. Key Largo woodrats are isolated on the island of Key Largo, Florida. Almost half of the species' original home range has been lost since the early 1970s. There are approximately 850 ha of suitable land left on the island, most of which is found within two protected areas: Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park and Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

    US Federal List: endangered

    CITES: no special status

    State of Michigan List: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    When eastern woodrats live near farms they are often considered pests. These woodrats, however, do very little economic harm to crops.

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eastern woodrats have no known economic value.