(Other Names: Central Thick-tailed Rock Rat, MacDonnell Range Rock Rat, MacDonnell Rat, Rat à Grosse Queue, Rata Coligorda)
Zyzomys pedunculatus (Laomys pedunculatus)
Status: Critically Endangered
1. Profile (Picture)
The central rock rat is a medium-sized rodent that weighs 70 - 120 g (2.5 - 4.3 oz). Adults are stocky with thick fur that is yellowish-brown on the upper body and cream or white below. Rock rats can be distinguished from rodents of other genera by their characteristically thickened tails. The central rock rat utilizes a range of habitats from tussock and hummock grasslands to low open woodland on ridge tops, cliffs, scree slopes, hills and valley floors. Its diet consists primarily of the seeds of shrubs, forbs and grasses, with leaves, fern sporangia and insects being consumed in smaller quantities. The central rock rat is believed to be nocturnal.
The central rock rat is endemic to the
arid southern portion of Australia’s
Northern Territory. It was first scientifically described in 1896. No records
had been obtained between 1970 and 1995, but it was rediscovered in 1996 and is now known from 14 sites scattered
over a 77 km (48 mi) length of the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs. The
full range of its current distribution is unknown. There is concern over the
status of the central rock rat because its populations are fragmented and its density is
low. No specific threats have been identified to date.
*** Despite the central rock rat having been first described over 100 years ago, almost nothing is known about its life history or ecology (Cole 2000).
*** Rock rats are known to lose their tails, fur and skin very easily and are, therefore, difficult to handle (Cole 2000).
*** Characterizing the conservation status of the central rock rat is difficult because it is similar to other arid zone rodents in undergoing dramatic population fluctuations in response to climatic conditions. For example, the species is now the most frequently trapped small mammal at some sites around Ormiston Gorge although it was not recorded there during 1991 - 1993 despite over 20,000 trap-nights of effort. (Pavey 2002)
*** Although there are 3 other species of rock rats in Australia, central rock rats are the only arid zone species. The others mainly occur in tropical northern Australia. Therefore it is questionable as to whether what is known about the other species can be applied to the central rock rat. (Threat. Spec. Network 1999)
The central rock rat is endemic to the southern portion of Australia’s Northern Territory. It was first scientifically described in 1896. Between 1896 and 1960, specimens were recorded at a handful of locations. No records were obtained between 1970 and 1995, and the species was presumed to be extinct. However, it was rediscovered in 1996 and is now known from 14 sites scattered over a 77 km (mi) length of the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs. The full range of the current distribution of the species is unknown. (Cole 2000, Pavey 2002)
Locations where the central rock rat has been recorded include Uluru - Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock - the Olgas) National Park, West MacDonnell Ranges, The Granites (Tanami Desert), James Range, Alice Springs, Napperby Hills, and Davenport Range. (Cole 2000, Pavey 2002)
There is concern over the status of the central rock rat because its populations are fragmented and its density is low (Cole 2000). No specific threats have been identified, and at present these are difficult to identify because the species is currently colonizing areas that it may formerly have occupied. However, among the potential threats are predation by dingos, inappropriate fire regimes, and habitat degradation as a result of grazing by feral herbivores, particularly horses. (Pavey 2002)
Size and Weight:
Arkive, Aust. Fauna.com, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cole 2000, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Lidicker 1989, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1997g, Pavey 2002, Strahan 1995
Last modified: June 2, 2005;