Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 8.6 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, it is estimated that these animals live up to 3 years (Bernhard Grzimek 1990). One captive specimen lived for 8.6 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Behavior

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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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Brandi Guilliams, Radford University
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Conservation Status

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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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Benefits

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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Benefits

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Eastern woodrats have no known economic value.

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Associations

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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)
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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Trophic Strategy

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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)

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Distribution

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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 )

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Habitat

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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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Life Expectancy

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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.

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Morphology

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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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Associations

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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

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Reproduction

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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)

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Guilliams, B. 2008. "Neotoma floridana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_floridana.html
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Eastern woodrat

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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.

Taxonomy

Eight subspecies of the eastern woodrat are currently recognized: N. f. illinoensis, N. f. floridana (the nominate), N. f. smalli, N. f. baileyi, N. f. pennsylvanica, N. f. attwateri, N. f. osagensis, and N. f. rubida. Of these, the Key Largo woodrat (N. f. smalli) is classified as Endangered by the IUCN.[2] The Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) was previously considered a subspecies but was elevated to species status based on comparative mitochondrial DNA analyses.[3] Subspecies are thought to be descended from one species living along the Appalachian Plateau, which subsequently spread out through the Coastal Plain.

Description

The eastern woodrat is a rodent of medium size, with an average length of 38 cm and weighing 217-333 g. The body is short and stocky and the tail is exceptionally long (15–20 cm). It is covered in a soft, gray-brown pelage, which is darker dorsally. Belly and feet are white. Sexes are alike, but males tend to be slightly larger.[2][4]

Distribution and habitat

Distribution

The distribution for the eastern woodrat stretches across the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. They are located as far south as the Tennessee River and Central Florida. The more central areas they are found are Kentucky and Tennessee. Northern locations include Kansas, central Missouri, and southern Illinois.[5] They can also be found along the Appalachian Mountains that range all the way to New York.[6] They’re also in some western locations and Piedmont areas of Maryland.[7] They can be see in places like woodlands,[8] prairies, mountains, swamps,[9] lowland hardwood forests, man as far west as Colorado. The more disjunctive population occurrence is in Nebraska and Key Largo Florida.[5] Woodrats are usually found in marshes, coastal plains, and grasslands.[6] The eastern woodrat's habitat ranges latitudinally from central Florida to southeastern New York, and longitudinally from Connecticut to eastern Colorado.[2] Reintroduction to north-eastern states, such as Illinois, have occurred in the 2010s.[10]

With a wide range but low population density, this species is considered uncommon. The overall population has been decreasing since 1982. The primary cause for this decline in the South-Eastern United States has been habitat due to human development of the Coastal Plains.[11]

The species has been recovered as a fossil from late Pleistocene deposits in southeastern New Mexico, several hundred miles southwest of its nearest current range.[12]

The species does not hibernate, even in the northern extremes of its range.[13]

Habitat

The species inhabits wooded areas, swamps and hedges, with a variety of different habitat preferences reported for the recognized geographic subspecies.[1] Nests can be located in and around rocky bluffs, upland woods, swamps and hammocks, dry scrub pine, grasslands, abandoned buildings, marshes, and refuse piles.[8] In Texas they are mostly found around brush piles, in Kansas they are often found around hilltop limestone, the base of trees, standing hollow trees, and under root tangles along gullies. They are recently found in Florida around willow trees. The eastern woodrat likes the ability to cover and get away from predators quickly.[5]

The nest can be constructed from a variety of different materials, such as sticks and branches, rocks, dry dung, tin cans, and glass shards, and lined dry grass, crushed barked, or bird feathers, and even rotting wood, acorn fragments, and loose soil.[9] These items are either picked up in the mouth or dragged, depending on the size of the item.[5]

Even though there is only one visible entrance, woodrat nests have multiple escape routes. Each 'house' contains up to 2 nests, but usually only one woodrat will be found in each home. Houses can be up to 4 m in length, 2 m in width, and more than 1 m in height. The shape depends on the location and may be pyramidal, conical, or domed (if sufficient structural support is present). Nests may be found up to 8 m above ground in trees or vines, but normally are located at ground level.[5][6] Houses are efficient shelters from temperature fluctuations and rain.[6]

Individuals are known to stay in one location for their entire lives, with multiple generations inhabiting the same nest. Unoccupied nests are frequently taken over by other animals, including rabbits, mice, snakes, amphibians, and various invertebrates.[1][14]

Eastern woodrats are typically solitary creatures, so they usually have a buffer between territories. The females have a smaller territory than males, averaging around 0.17 ha. Males average around 0.26 ha and the species-wide average territory area is 662 square meters. Being solitary, the rats tend not to stray much farther than 21 m from their nests unless sexually active or for a preferred food.[11]

Ecology

Foraging

As with most members of the genus, the Eastern Woodrat feeds opportunistically on nuts, seeds, fungi, buds, stems, roots, foliage, and fruits.[1][15] While the eastern woodrat's nest is typically found on the ground, it is a capable climber and may forage above ground.[2] Eastern Woodrats eat about 5% of their body weight in dry mass each day. During the summer months, most feeding is done while foraging. Only small amounts of food are taken back to the den for daytime feeding.[2] Woodrats do not change significantly in weight from autumn to spring. Weight of individual woodrats is not correlated to the kilocalories in their caches.[16]

Eastern woodrats are known for their foraging and caching habits. When searching for food is dangerous or unproductive, animals often use food stores to supply all or part of their diet. This is a feasible strategy to avoid food shortage. It is the habit of collecting and storing both food and nonfood items that has earned the eastern woodrat is other common name of "pack-rat" or "trade rat".[17] Starting in September, the woodrat will start to forage and store food in its midden for use and survival in the winter.[18] Although caches do not serve as the sole source of winter food, caches examined yielded as much as 1 imperial bushel (36 l) of plant material.[17]

Woodrats have great adaptability in their feeding habits. They feed on almost any kind of plant material including leaves, roots and tubers, wood, bark, stems, and seeds.[19] Although the Eastern Woodrats eat mostly green vegetation, they also eat various types of fruits, nuts, fungi, ferns, and seeds.[18] Food preferences vary between individuals, populations and geographic areas.[16] In Texas, pecan nuts are a major food source; in Tennessee, mint and beechnuts were found to be the most cached item; in Pennsylvania, mushrooms were one of the top food items. Acorns are a major food source for all woodrat populations, as oak trees are found throughout its range and acorns can be stored for a long time.[2] Energy and perishability influence the woodrat’s diet and caching. The value of food when consumed should equal or exceed the cost of gathering and storage. Food is chosen by dryness and degree of microbial infection. Woodrats tend to eat perishable food and cache less perishable foods, thus reducing the risk of loss to spoilage.[20]

Decomposition of food stores appears to be a constant challenge. Woodrats seem to exhibit physiological adaptions that allow them to consume food inhabited by fungi. Fungi can increase nutritional value of some foods by making nutrients within food more accessible by breaking down complex carbohydrates, which woodrats may exploit.[21]

Although eastern woodrats are herbivores, evidence suggests that the species will take meat if given the opportunity. Snakes, salamanders, mice, and quail have all been found in stomachs of Woodrats.[22] Gnawed bones have been found in caches, probably used for sharpening teeth and for their mineral contents. Only anecdotal evidence exists concerning woodrat carnivory. However, woodrats will cache carrion if given the chance.[22]

Drinking water is typically not needed. Woodrats get the water they need from dew, water-containing plants such as succulents, and fruit, and can survive droughts with these water sources alone.[2]

Reproduction and lifecycle

Eastern woodrats are aggressive towards conspecifics. Older individuals will chase and fight younger woodrats. The species only becomes sociable during breeding season.[23]

The breeding season of eastern wood rats depends on the climate. Those in warmer climates (e.g. Florida and Georgia) can reproduce all year, while eastern wood rats in higher latitudes (e.g. Kansas and Nebraska) breed from early spring to mid fall. Their estrous cycle lasts between 3 and 8 days, while gestation lasts between 32 and 38 days.[11] One to six young are born in each litter, and the female may become pregnant again after a week. Females can have up to three litters in a year, with two being normal. They can also sometimes reproduce in their first year, as they reach sexual maturity before males. Females are solely responsible for the young. Females and males fight when they come across each other. If the male wins, copulation occurs, but if the female wins, the male is usually killed during fighting.[6]

Pups are born with closed eyes, limited amount of hair and immediately attached to the teat. Most of the pelage will have appeared by day 8.[24] On the 15th day their hair is fully grown and their eyes are wide open. The young wean for 3–4 weeks and become independent after 70–90 days. Juveniles continue growing until they are about 8 months old.[25] The females start mating as young as 5 months.[26]

In captivity the Eastern Woodrat has been recorded to live for up to 8.6 years, however the average lifespan in the wild is 3 years. The majority of deaths occur within their first year of life. One field study in Kansas tracked 27 individuals, of which 6 survived to adulthood and only 3 lived long enough to reproduce.[11]

Predators and parasites

Eastern woodrats are a common prey item for many predators. Most common predators are the great horned owl, spotted skunk, long-tailed weasel, red fox, raccoon, and the timber rattlesnake, along with other various snakes. Woodrats try to avoid predators by being mostly active at night and hiding in their large dens during daylight. Unweaned pups in dens in particular are commonly taken by snakes.[25]

One of the most common parasites of eastern woodrats are botfly larvae. Adult botflies lay their eggs outside the entrance of the woodrat’s den. They then attach themselves to the woodrat’s fur when it passes through entrance. Once the eggs hatch, the botfly larvae penetrate the skin and lodge in the woodrat’s neck, chest, and abdomen until pupation. The resulting cyst can be 15 mm in diameter but does not seem to cause any obvious discomfort. Botflies infest approximately 16% of the eastern woodrat population.

Raccoons may carry raccoon roundworms, an intestinal parasite. Woodrats may ingest the eggs of the roundworm while foraging at raccoon latrine areas. Larvae migrate to the brain, causing a lack of energy, loss of muscle control, and eventually death. The roundworm is a known mortality factor in woodrats in Indiana, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, with infection rates of around 75%.[25]

Ecological role

Eastern woodrat nests provide homes for a number of other species including, but not limited to, other rodents, insects, reptiles, and frogs.[27] Seed dispersal by caching and transporting seeds into dens has a great impact on the spread and maintenance of forest ecosystems, and woodrat fecal matter increases soil fertility.[28] The study of feces from prehistoric woodrat middens has been of great use in archaeological and paleontological research by providing indications about changing floral regimes.[29]

Interaction with humans

Eastern woodrats are popularly known for being pests. They tend to seek out houses, especially cottages or cabins in wooded areas, for warmth or housing, and do not hesitate to make nests out of mattresses and other furniture while feeding in adjacent cultivated areas. Automobiles may be damaged by chewing on wires and the introduction of nesting materials. Rarely, eastern woodrats may be the carriers of diseases that are communicable to humans.[28] The eastern woodrat does not have any economic value.[27]

Conservation

Most subspecies of the eastern woodrat have been classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with the exception of the Key Largo woodrat. While the species appears to never have been abundant, it remains widespread and reasonably common.[1] However, at smaller scales, the species has been listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern in 5 of the 17 states in which they are found. State status designations may not be accurate since there is little research done where woodrats are presumed to be common. All states with recorded population decline are on the edge of the species range. The only conservation action taken has been habitat protection in Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida.[1][11]

Threats

Where eastern woodrats have declined, a variety of possible causes has been identified. Based on the historical records, it appears that extremely cold winters can cause a dramatic decline in populations. In 1912 and 1918, severe winters reduced the Illinois eastern woodrat populations. In 1948 and 1949, long winters with accumulation of snow and ice might have caused high mortality of litters in Kansas and starvation of adults.[25]

In recent times, urban development is thought to have had an impact. In South Carolina, massive development and urbanization, including forest clearance and road expansion, have led to habitat loss and isolation of woodrat populations. Suitable habitats in the Coastal Plains of South Carolina are not protected at all.[30]

While woodrats forage on many different food items, they are they are largely depended on cached acorns and nuts during winter. Eruptions of the gypsy moth in the basin of the Lower Mississippi River in 1964 and 1965 resulted in poor acorn and chestnut crops and subsequently in increased mortality in eastern woodrats in the area.[25]

The continued spread of raccoons may increase the likelihood of lethal infection of woodrats with the raccoon roundworm.[30]

Conservation management

In 2003, The Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida department of Environmental Protection jointly initiated a program for the removal of feral and free-roaming cats from conservation areas occupied by woodrats, which has proven largely successful.[31] Another step towards preserving this species is the separation of human activities from woodrat habitats to reduce human disturbance and secondary effects such as the presence of raccoons.[11]

The species has been reintroduced in several areas including Pine Hills, Union County and some sites in Missouri.[10] Reintroduction areas need to be checked for adequate food supplies, shelter resources and absence of raccoon roundworm. It has been suggested that the sex ratio be skewed toward females because eastern woodrats are polygynous, and that a genetically diverse stock be used to improve adaptability and survival rates.[32]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Cassola, F. (2016). "Neotoma floridana (errata version published in 2017)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T42650A115199202.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wiley, R. (1980). "Neotoma floridana" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 139 (139): 1–7. doi:10.2307/3503989. JSTOR 3503989.
  3. ^ Edwards, Cody W.; Bradley, Robert D. (1 August 2001). "Molecular Phylogenetics of the Neotoma Floridana Species Group". Journal of Mammalogy. 82 (3): 791–798. doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2001)082<0791:MPOTNF>2.0.CO;2.
  4. ^ "Neotoma floridana - Eastern Woodrat" at the Encyclopedia of Life
  5. ^ a b c d e Feldhamer, George A.; Thompson, Bruce C.; Chapman, Joseph A. (21 October 2003). Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. John Hoppkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-7416-1.
  6. ^ a b c d e Wiley, Robert W. "Neotoma floridana." Mammalian Species Archive 139 (1980): 1-7.
  7. ^ "Neotoma floridana (eastern woodrat)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  8. ^ a b Knowles, T.W. and J.R. Burger. 2008. Predominant use of windthrows by nesting eastern woodrats (Neotoma floridana) in the South Carolina coastal plain. Am. Midl. Nat. 160(1):209-219
  9. ^ a b Hutchins, M. 2002. Article title. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. p.221. Gale Publishers, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
  10. ^ a b Poole, A. K.; Novosak, B. A.; Gooley, A. C.; Ing, D. M.; Bluett, R. D.; Carter, T. C.; Feldhamer, G. A. (2013). "Reintroduction of the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana) in southern Illinois". Southeastern Naturalist. 12 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1656/058.012.0101. S2CID 86753856.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Feldhamer, George A., Monty, Anne-Marie (May 2002). "Conservation Assessment for The Eastern Woodrat, (Neotoma floridana) and The Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister)" (PDF). www.fs.usda.gov. USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  12. ^ Harris, A. H. (1984). "Neotoma in the Late Pleistocene of New Mexico and Chihuahua". Special Publications of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 8: 164–178.
  13. ^ Rossell Jr, C. R.; Roach, S. H.; Rossell, I. M.; McGrath, C. (2009). "Attributes of rock crevices selected by Allegheny and eastern woodrats in the zone of contact in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina". American Midland Naturalist. 162 (1): 200–206. doi:10.1674/0003-0031-162.1.200. S2CID 86759455.
  14. ^ Best, Troy L.; Dusi, Julian L. (2014). Gosse Nature Guides: Mammals of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, US: University Alabama Press.
  15. ^ Gingerich, Jerry Lee (1994). Florida's Fabulous Mammals. Tampa, FL: World Publications. p. 42. ISBN 0-911977-13-9.
  16. ^ a b Horne; McDonald; Reichman, E. A.; M.; O. J. (1998). "Changes in Cache Contents Over Winter in Artificial Dens of the Eastern Woodrat (Neotoma Floridana)". Journal of Mammalogy. 79 (3): 898–905. doi:10.2307/1383097. JSTOR 1383097.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ a b Wilson, Don (1999). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  18. ^ a b Whitaker, J. O. (1996). National Audubon Society field guide to North American mammals. New York: Knopf.
  19. ^ Guilliams, B. B. (21 November 2016). "Neotoma floridana (eastern woodrat)". Animaldiversity.org.
  20. ^ Post; McDonald, J.; M. W. (1998). "Influence of Maternal diet and Perishability on Caching and Consumption Behavior of Juvenile Eastern Woodrats". Journal of Mammalogy. 79 (1): 156–162. doi:10.2307/1382850. JSTOR 1382850.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Herrera; McDonald, J.; M.W (1997). "Consumption by Eastern Woodrats (Neotoma floridana) of Food Infected by Fungi". American Midland Naturalist. 137 (2): 239–244. doi:10.2307/2426847. JSTOR 2426847.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ a b Williams, Christopher K. (2000). "Eastern Woodrat (Neotoma Floridana) Consumption of Northern Bobwhite (Colinus Virginianus)". The American Midland Naturalist. 143: 239–244. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2000)143[0239:ewnfco]2.0.co;2.
  23. ^ Jerry O. Wolff; Paul W. Sherman, eds. (2008). Rodent Societies - An Ecological And Evolutionary Perspective. University of Chicago Press.
  24. ^ Pearson, Paul G. (1952). "Observations concerning the Life History and Ecology of the Woodrat, Neotoma floridana floridana (Ord)". Journal of Mammalogy. 33 (4): 459–463. doi:10.2307/1376018. JSTOR 1376018.
  25. ^ a b c d e Monty, A.; Feldhamer, G. (2002). Conservation Assessment for The Eastern Woodrat, (Neotoma floridana) and The Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister) (PDF) (Report).
  26. ^ Armstrong, D. M.; Fitzgerald, J. P.; Meaney, C. A. (2010). Mammals of Colorado (Second ed.). Boulder, US: University Press of Colorado.
  27. ^ a b Brown, Larry N. (1997). A Guide to the Mammals of the Southeastern United States. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. pp. 113. ISBN 978-0870499661. economic significance of eastern woodrat.
  28. ^ a b Feldhamer, George A.; Thompson, Bruce C.; Chapman, Joseph A. (2003). Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hoppkins University Press. pp. 381–390. ISBN 978-0-8018-7416-1.
  29. ^ Betancourt, Julio H.; Van Devender, Thomas R.; Schultz Martin, Paul (1990). Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0816511150.
  30. ^ a b Bunch, M.; Miller, S.; Webster, D. (2005). "Eastern woodrat" (PDF). South Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan. Supplemental volume: Species of conservation concern.
  31. ^ Cove, Michael V.; Simons, Theodore R.; Gardner, Beth; O'Connell, Allan F. (1 September 2019). "Towards recovery of an endangered island endemic: Distributional and behavioral responses of Key Largo woodrats associated with exotic predator removal". Biological Conservation. 237: 423–429. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2019.07.032. ISSN 0006-3207.
  32. ^ Muiznieks, B. (2006). "Captive propagation and the key largo woodrat". Endangered Species Update. 23: A32–A33.
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Eastern woodrat: Brief Summary

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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.

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Key Largo woodrat

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The Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli),[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] a subspecies of the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), is a medium-sized rat found on less than 2,000 acres of the northern area of Key Largo, Florida, in the United States.[9] It is currently on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service list of endangered species. The rat grows to 260 grams and feeds on fruit, leaves and buds. It has a gray-brown back and white belly, chest, and throat, and a hairy tail. Only 6500 animals were thought to remain in North Key Largo in the late 1980s.[2]

Taxonomy

Although a 1923 article described woodrat nests on Key Largo, the form was not scientifically described until 1955, when H.B. Sherman described it as Neotoma floridana smalli, a subspecies of the widespread eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana).[10] In 1987, Lazell suggested that it is distinct enough to be considered a separate species, but this proposal has not been accepted. The mitochondrial DNA of Key Largo woodrats is distinct by at least 0.6% from that of the most similar subspecies, the Florida woodrat (Neotoma floridana floridana) from further north in Florida, but members of that subspecies differ about as much from each other as from the Key Largo woodrat.[3]

Description

The Key Largo woodrat is similar to the Florida woodrat (Neotoma floridana floridana) and cannot be distinguished from it in size or external anatomy. It differs in the shape of the sphenopalatine vacuities (openings in the roof of the mesopterygoid fossa, the gap behind the palate), which are narrower and shorter than in N. f. floridana. On average, males are a bit larger than females. In the holotype, an adult male, total length is 368 mm (14.5 in), tail length 167 mm (6.6 in), hindfoot length 37 mm (1.5 in), ear length 26 mm (1.0 in), dimensions of the testis 14 mm × 8.5 mm (0.55 in × 0.33 in), and mass is 207 g (7.3 oz).[10]

Distribution and habitat

The animal is found exclusively in the northern part of Key Largo, at least 210 km removed from its nearest kin, the Florida woodrat. It is endemic to the tropical hardwood hammocks of Key Largo, where its habitat has shrunk by half since the 1920s, and the remainder is fragmented, thinned, and developed. It retains some 850 ha, most of which is in the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park and the adjacent Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.[5]

Behaviour

Shelter

The Key Largo woodrat builds nests out of sticks; these nests can be as high as a man's shoulder. They are handed down from generation to generation, and some are possibly centuries old.[11]

Conservation

Since the Key Largo woodrat has a small and specific habitat, it is susceptible to human encroachment. Since the 1920s, it has lost almost half of its traditional habitat.[5] In the early 1980s, biologists began equipping rats with radio devices to count them and study them;[12] by the end of the 1980s, a study showed that the rat had disappeared from Key Largo proper and its total population had dwindled to some 6500 animals on North Key Largo.[2] Its fate in Key Largo was tied to that of the American Crocodile, and when a planned reservation for the crocodile in North Key Largo bogged down during the presidential transition in the US Administration in 1980, the woodrat was threatened with extinction; the crocodile reservation was to be a haven for the woodrat, and also for the rare Schaus Swallowtail butterfly. A project called Port Bougainville, with 15 hotels besides condos, would add 45,000 inhabitants to North Key Largo by the year 2000, adding to the pressure on the crocodile and other animals.[13]

The 406-acre (1.64 km2) project, which by 1982 included a planned 2806 units, ran into opposition from environmental groups and by 1984 had ground to a halt after one of the investors withdrew a $54 million investment.[14] in 1983 already, the administration had intervened and declared the Key Largo woodrat and the Key Largo cotton mouse endangered on a "temporary emergency basis";[15] the developer of a golf course, for instance, was ordered to restore the area he was illegally developing, to preserve the woodrat's habitat.[16] Since 1984, the Key Largo woodrat is on the United States list of endangered species, along with the Schaus Swallowtail and the Key Largo Cotton Mouse.[17]

By the 1990s, the animal's habitat had shrunk to about three square miles,[18] and the Key Largo woodrat was called "one of the rarest creatures on earth."[19] The animal also suffers from competition with the infamous Rattus rattus.[20]

As of 2005, the Key Largo woodrat population was still struggling to survive among the half-built condominiums of the former Port Bougainville project,[21] which in 2003 became part of the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.[22] 400 acres (1.6 km2) of the developer's land were bought up by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1987;[23] the Botanical State Park now takes up 2,421 acres (9.80 km2).[22] Besides in this area,[24] the rat finds refuge in the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which has a captive breeding program currently in operation but increasing development continues to threaten the animal.[25]

Cultural importance

A rat, brownish above and white below, sitting on a nearly vertical stem within dense vegetation.

The threat to many threatened species but especially the woodrat and the cotton mouse[26] generated broad interest in the Florida Keys in the 1980s, with many environmental groups being formed. Anna Dagny Johnson (1918–2003), a well-known environmentalist,[27] led efforts by the Upper Keys Citizens Association, Friends of the Everglades, and the Izaak Walton League to stop development around North Key Largo; the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks honored her by naming the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park for her, a year before she died.[22]

The rat's habit of building large nests ("4ft by 6ft homes") was seen as proof that "even wildlife in Florida want enormous homes."[28] Novelist Lydia Millet paid homage to the woodrat in her 2008 novel How the Dead Dream, a story of a young real estate developer from Los Angeles who, after some personal turmoil, takes an obsessive interest in vanishing species.[29] A 1997 collection of poetry and prose by a writers cooperative from Key West features a poem ("The Place We Live" by Robin Orlandi) in which the woodrat is mentioned as one of three "endangered native species," alongside the Key deer and the Stock Island Snail, Orthalicus reses reses.[30]

References and external links

  1. ^ Mammal Species of the World – Browse: floridana. Bucknell.edu. Retrieved on 2012-12-27.
  2. ^ a b c Humphrey, S.R. (1988). "Density estimates of the endangered Key Largo woodrat and cotton mouse (Neotoma floridana smalli and Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola), using the nested-grid approach". Journal of Mammalogy. 69 (3): 524–531. doi:10.2307/1381344. JSTOR 1381344.
  3. ^ a b Hayes, J.P.; Harrison, R.G. (1992). "Variation in mitochondrial DNA and the biogeographic history of woodrats (Neotoma) of the eastern United States". Systematic Biology. 41 (3): 331–344. doi:10.1093/sysbio/41.3.331. JSTOR 2992570.
  4. ^ Linzey, A.V.; Jordan, R.A. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Neotoma floridana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2010.old-form url
  5. ^ a b c McCleery, R.A.; Lopez, R.R. & Silvy, N.J. (2006). "Movements and habitat use of the Key Largo woodrat". Southeastern Naturalist. 5 (4): 725–736. doi:10.1656/1528-7092(2006)5[725:MAHUOT]2.0.CO;2. JSTOR 3878061.
  6. ^ Hersh, S.L. (1981). "Ecology of the Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli)". Journal of Mammalogy. 62 (1): 201–206. doi:10.2307/1380498. JSTOR 1380498.
  7. ^ Barbour, D.B.; Humphrey, S.R. (1982). "Status and habitat of the Key Largo woodrat and cotton mouse (Neotoma floridana smalli and Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola)". Journal of Mammalogy. 63 (1): 144–148. doi:10.2307/1380680. JSTOR 1380680.
  8. ^ McCleery, R.A.; Lopez, R.R.; Silvy, N.J.; Frank, P.A. & Klett, S.B. (2006). "Population status and habitat selection of the endangered Key Largo woodrat". American Midland Naturalist. 155 (1): 197–209. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2006)155[0197:psahso]2.0.co;2. JSTOR 4094704.
  9. ^ Gingerich, Jerry Lee (1994). Florida's Fabulous Mammals. Tampa, FL: World Publications. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-911977-13-4.
  10. ^ a b Sherman, H.B. (1955). "Description of a new race of woodrat from Key Largo, Florida". Journal of Mammalogy. 36 (1): 113–120. doi:10.2307/1375731. JSTOR 1375731.
  11. ^ "Wildlife Officer Works to Save Endangered Rat". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. 20 April 1989. p. 13. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Federal Aid Sought as the Woodrat's Time Runs Out". Miami Herald. 21 March 1984. pp. 1D. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  13. ^ Dahlburg, John-Thor (18 December 1982). "Condos May Kill Off American Crocodiles: It's the 11th Hour for the American Crocodile and other Endangered Species that Live on Key Largo". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. pp. 19A. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  14. ^ Wilkinson, Jerry. "North Key Largo". Keys Historeum. Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  15. ^ "Protecting Land Endangers Value, Investors Say". Miami Herald. 17 September 1984. pp. 17A. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  16. ^ "State Orders Firm to Restore Key Largo Land". Miami Herald. 4 October 1984. pp. 1C. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  17. ^ "2 Key Largo Rodents, Butterfly Added to Endangered Species List". Miami Herald. 2 September 1984. pp. 12F. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  18. ^ McClure, Robert (19 October 1998). "Rapid Growth, Shrinking Land Put Wildlife in Fight to Survive. Series: A Keys Odyssey Tides of Change". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. pp. 11A. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  19. ^ McClure, Robert (20 October 1998). "Striking a Balance; Our Journey Continues to North Key Large, Where Development was Chewing up Unique Subtropical Forests Until the State Intervened. Series: A Keys Odyssey Tides Of Change". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. pp. 1A. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  20. ^ Lodge, Thomas E. (2005). The Everglades handbook: understanding the ecosystem. CRC Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-1-56670-614-8. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  21. ^ McClure, Robert (5 February 2005). "The wood rat struggling to rebound after development halted". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  22. ^ a b c "Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park: History and Culture". Florida Division of Recreation and Parks. 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  23. ^ Ballingrud, David (16 December 1987). "FDIC buys sensitive tract in Florida Keys". St. Petersburg Times. pp. 2B. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  24. ^ Bernard, Larry (15 January 1986). "Compromise Plan to Protect Major Part of Key Largo". Sun-Sentinel. pp. 12A. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  25. ^ "Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge". United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  26. ^ Palmer, Tom (7 September 2003). "The Keys to Nature: Pay Close Attention or You'll Miss Lots of Treats in this Tropical Paradise". The Ledger. pp. C1, A10. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  27. ^ "Anna Dagny Johnson, 85, Keys Activist". Miami Herald. 8 March 2003. pp. 4B. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  28. ^ Campbell, Jeff; Becca Blond; Willy Volk; Adam Karlin (2009). Florida. Lonely Planet. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-74104-697-7. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  29. ^ Millet, Lydia (2009). How the Dead Dream. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-15-603546-0. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  30. ^ Key West Authors Coop (1997). Once upon an island: a collection of short fiction, poetry & non-fiction from new Key West writers. Black Cat Publishing of Key West. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-57502-515-5. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Endangered Species – [1]
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Key Largo woodrat: Brief Summary

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The Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli), a subspecies of the eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana), is a medium-sized rat found on less than 2,000 acres of the northern area of Key Largo, Florida, in the United States. It is currently on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service list of endangered species. The rat grows to 260 grams and feeds on fruit, leaves and buds. It has a gray-brown back and white belly, chest, and throat, and a hairy tail. Only 6500 animals were thought to remain in North Key Largo in the late 1980s.

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