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The dusky-footed wood rat and its relatives in the genus Neotoma are sometimes called pack rats, trade rats, bush rats, and cave rats. This species is known to have many animal associates. These associates have been placed into three groups: predators, parasites, and commensals. Predators of this species are skunks, hawks, owls, and wild cats. The wood rat carries parasites such as ticks, mites, and fleas. Many other animals are commensals with the wood rat, using its nest for shelter. The King Snake is one such animal.

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Conservation Status

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This species can be found abundantly within its geographgic range. It is not endangered or threatened.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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In coastal areas of California, feces from the dusky-footed wood rat can be found in large quantities in the inner base of the rat houses. These feces have be used as garden fertilizer. The commercial use of fertilizer in California has led to the removal of one to three sacks of feces per wood rat nest.

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Trophic Strategy

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The dusky-footed wood rat feeds on seventy-two different types of plants. Some of these include Blackberry, Maul Oak, Valley Oak, Soap plant, Gold fern, and Bracken. This was determined by analyzing food specimens in homes of dusky-tailed wood rats. The plants consumed by the dusky-footed wood rat are utilized for nutrients as well as their water content. This species derives moisture from eating the vegetation. However, the availibility of certain plants varies with the seasons. This species has a tendency to store a large amount of food in its nests. In one nest, for example, there were one hundred and thirty-two cuttings of fresh material. The dusky-tailed wood rat eats food throughout the night. In one feeding period, they consumed 44.2g on average.

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Distribution

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The range of the dusky-footed wood rat is restricted to the Pacific coastal area of the United States and Lower California. The range specifically extends from the Columbia River in Washington southward through the Sierra San Pedro Martir of northern Lower California. Toward the east, the dusky-footed wood rat's range reaches the Cascade-Sierra Nevada mountain system and the Mojave and Colorado deserts. In terms of altitude, this species lives at elevations of around 9,000 feet in the southern areas of its range.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Habitat

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The dusky-footed wood rat, although found on hillsides, usually select valleys and lives very close to small streams and water. Since this species likes areas that are covered, they tend to avoid open grassland and open oak woods with small amounts of underbrush. The plant species in the area affect the wood rat through the nature of the cover and screening it offers. Plants such as Arroyo Willow, Red Willow, and Coast Live Oak provide good protection.

Besides the biotic features of a habitat, there are also abiotic features which contribute to the nature of the dusky-footed wood rats' habitat. Light is avoided even when it is as weak as moonlight. Cold air is more suitable than extreme heat. When temperatures approach one hundred degrees fahrenheit, wood rats move to cooler places. Dryness of a wood rat's coat is important for maintaining good health, but low humidity is unfavorable. Within their habitats, rats live in colonies of three to fifteen or more nests (homes).

Terrestrial Biomes: chaparral ; forest

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Morphology

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The fundamental pelage color of dusky-footed wood rats is cinnamon with variations toward tints of buff and pink. Every dusky-footed wood rat has vibrissae (whiskers) that are disposed in six parallel, evenly spaced rows. The ears are thin, large, rounded, and broad as well as hairy. The claws are short, sharp, curved sharply downward and almost equal in length. The claws are also colorless. There is some sexual dimorphism in this species. Females are about 38.5cm in length (including the 18.7cm tail). Males are about 44.3cm (including a 21.5cm tail). Males usually also weigh more than females.

Range mass: 230 to 300 g.

Average mass: 275.50 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Reproduction

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Reproduction by a male dusky-footed wood rat depends on its proximity to other male conspecifics. In the presence of many male rats, individual male rats may not reach full sexual maturity or physical size. However, when a male wood rat is isolated it immediately increases its weight and becomes sexually mature. At this time, the testes increase in size dramatically.

The reproductive period of this species usually begins in late September and continues until mid-June or mid-July. This coincides with the onset of the rainy season and the growth of plants. The inactive reproductive period arrives in the dry season when much of the vegetation is not growing.

Females also show seasonal changes in reproductive activity. The months of April and May are when most females are reproductively active. Females mate with a single male, and there is no evidence of polygamy. During the breeding season, males move about changing nests in search of sexually receptive females. Males pair with the most accessible female, which is usually the one closest to their nests. The fewer females present in an area, the more a male will move.

Females remain in their original nests and may raise a succession of litters. Some females may experience reoccuring oestrous cycles without becoming pregnant. This occurs when there are fewer males than females in an area, and each of these males limits its attention to a single female. The result is that some females are without a male for a long time.

Once gestation begins, the female is intolerant toward the male and somtimes will attack the male. If a male approaches an intolerant female, and if he has not mated yet, he will leave the vicinity and find another receptive female. Once a male mates, he lives alone in a separate nest which he builds himself. By spring, most females begin producing young. The suckling young, about 2.8 per litter, are dependent to the mother until the time of weaning. Weaning begins three weeks after the young are born. After weaning, the young begin to eat the same greens as their parents. Females protect suckling young by hovering over them and attempting to bite an animal who tries to touch them.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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Bonadio, C. 2000. "Neotoma fuscipes" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Neotoma_fuscipes.html
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Christopher Bonadio, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Dusky-footed woodrat

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 src=
Adult female N. fuscipes, UC Davis Quail Ridge Reserve
 src=
N. fuscipes house, UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, CA

The dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes) is a species of nocturnal rodent in the family Cricetidae.[2] They are commonly called "packrats" or "trade rats" and build large, domed dens that can reach several feet in height. Coyotes and other predators will attempt to prey on these rodents by laying waste to the dens, but the sheer volume of material is usually dissuasive. Occasionally, dusky-footed woodrats will build satellite dens in trees. Although these animals are solitary, except in the mating season (when they are most vulnerable to predation), dens are frequently found in clusters of up to several dozen, forming rough "communities". The mating system in this species appears to be variable, with promiscuity most generally at high population densities and monogamy at lower densities.[3]

They are similar in appearance to the common rat species Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus, but with larger ears and eyes, softer coats, and furred tails. The California mouse, Peromyscus californicus, which has similar distribution, is sometimes found living in woodrat dens. Dens contain a nest and one or more "pantry" chambers which are used to store leaves and nuts for future consumption. The dental formula of Neotoma fuscipes is 1.0.0.31.0.0.3 × 2 = 16.[4]

Distribution and habitat

The species is found in Mexico and the United States. Woodrats are found from Oregon into the northern part of Baja California. They are found along the Pacific coast, west of the deserts and Great Basin.[4][5] Woodrats prefer dense chaparral and are found near streams. They are also found in juniper and mixed coniferous forests, they prefer dense ground cover. In northeastern California, woodrats can survive in lava rims and beds with enough vegetation cover.[5]

Diet

Dusky-footed woodrats are chiefly herbivorous, but will eat insects, especially mealworms and crickets if offered; they eat a variety of cuttings from branches, leaves, fruits, and nuts.[6] Woodrats store food cuttings in their nests; with nests averaging 4.5 species of herbivorous vegetation, though they tend to have a dominant food source making up the majority of cuttings, oak (Quercus) is preferred if available.[4] While most woodrats are habitat generalists, eating many varieties of plants, there is evidence of local specialization in diets.[7] For example, significant differences have been observed in the diets of woodrats living only one kilometer apart, with one group living in juniper forest showing a preference for western juniper and the other, in mixed coniferous forest, substisting largely on incense cedar. [7]

Predators

Woodrats are prey items of owls, coyotes, hawks, weasels, skunks, snakes, and cats. These predators, along with humans, keep woodrat populations under control.[4][6][8][9]

Behavior

Nesting

Woodrats build extensive nests in trees, on the ground, and on bluffs with dense vegetation or rock cover. The conical shaped nests can be two to eight feet tall and are made of sticks, bark, and various plant matter. One nest can house successive generations of woodrats, with offspring adding to nests making them larger. The nests can have many rooms used for food storage, resting, nurseries, and protection. Nests can be built in harsh, inaccessible places such as thorny brush or poison oak patches.[4][6] One study suggests that dusky-footed woodrats of California have been found to selectively place California bay leaves (Umbellularia) around the edges of their nest within their stickhouses to control levels of ectoparasites such as fleas.[10] The leaves contain volatile organic compounds which are toxic to flea larvae. Among the terpenes most toxic to flea larvae in the bay leaves are umbellelone, cineole, and cymene.[11] Wood rats are believed to have evolved this behavioral adaptation to cope with the environmental stresses posed by ectoparasites.[11]

References

  1. ^ Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Neotoma fuscipes". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2010.old-form url
  2. ^ Musser, G. G. and Carleton, M. D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds.) pp. 894–1531. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  3. ^ McEachern, M. B.; McElreath, R. L.; VanVuren, D. H. & Eadie, J. M. (2009). "Another genetically promiscuous 'polygynous' mammal: mating system variation in Neotoma fuscipes". Animal Behaviour. 77 (2): 449. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.10.024. S2CID 4953336.
  4. ^ a b c d e Carraway, L. N.; Verts, B. J. (1991-11-06). "Neotoma fuscipes". Mammalian Species (386): 1–10. doi:10.2307/3504130. ISSN 0076-3519. JSTOR 3504130.
  5. ^ a b Murray, Keith F.; Barnes, Allan M. (1969). "Distribution and Habitat of the Woodrat, Neotoma fuscipes, in Northeastern California". Journal of Mammalogy. 50 (1): 43–48. doi:10.2307/1378628. JSTOR 1378628.
  6. ^ a b c English, Pennoyer F. (1923). "The Dusky-Footed Wood Rat (Neotoma fuscipes)". Journal of Mammalogy. 4 (1): 1–9. doi:10.2307/1373521. JSTOR 1373521.
  7. ^ a b Brooke McEachern, Mary; A. Eagles-Smith, Collin; M. Efferson, Charles; H. Van Vuren, Dirk (2006-06-01). "Evidence for local specialization in a generalist mammalian herbivore, Neotoma fuscipes". Oikos. 113 (3): 440–448. doi:10.1111/j.2006.0030-1299.14176.x. ISSN 1600-0706.
  8. ^ Fitch, Henry (1947). "Predation by Owls in the Sierran Foothills of California". The Condor. 49 (4): 137–151. doi:10.2307/1364108. JSTOR 1364108.
  9. ^ Vestal, Elden H. (1938). "Biotic Relations of the Wood Rat (Neotoma fuscipes) in the Berkeley Hills". Journal of Mammalogy. 19 (1): 1–36. doi:10.2307/1374278. JSTOR 1374278.
  10. ^ Hemmes, Richard (2002). "Use of California bay foliage by wood rats for possible fumigation of nest-borne ectoparasites". Behavioral Ecology. 13 (3): 381–385. doi:10.1093/beheco/13.3.381.
  11. ^ a b Vassar College, URSI projects 2006 and 2007, Prof. Richard B. Hemmes and Edith C. Stout, Students Anna Payne-Tobin, Camille Friason, and Michael Higgins. The Role of Monoterpenes from California Bay in Nest Ectoparasite Control by Dusky-Footed Wood Rats Archived 2010-07-10 at the Wayback Machine, and Behavioral Adaptations to Parasites: Are Wood Rats Using Plant Essential Oils to Control Nest Ectoparasites? Archived 2010-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
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Dusky-footed woodrat: Brief Summary

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 src= Adult female N. fuscipes, UC Davis Quail Ridge Reserve  src= N. fuscipes house, UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, CA

The dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes) is a species of nocturnal rodent in the family Cricetidae. They are commonly called "packrats" or "trade rats" and build large, domed dens that can reach several feet in height. Coyotes and other predators will attempt to prey on these rodents by laying waste to the dens, but the sheer volume of material is usually dissuasive. Occasionally, dusky-footed woodrats will build satellite dens in trees. Although these animals are solitary, except in the mating season (when they are most vulnerable to predation), dens are frequently found in clusters of up to several dozen, forming rough "communities". The mating system in this species appears to be variable, with promiscuity most generally at high population densities and monogamy at lower densities.

They are similar in appearance to the common rat species Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus, but with larger ears and eyes, softer coats, and furred tails. The California mouse, Peromyscus californicus, which has similar distribution, is sometimes found living in woodrat dens. Dens contain a nest and one or more "pantry" chambers which are used to store leaves and nuts for future consumption. The dental formula of Neotoma fuscipes is 1.0.0.31.0.0.3 × 2 = 16.

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