Maned rat

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Maned rat
Temporal range: Early Pleistocene - Recent
Lophiomys imhausi.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Superfamily: Muroidea
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Lophiomyinae
Milne-Edwards, 1867
Genus: Lophiomys
Milne-Edwards, 1867
Species: L. imhausi
Binomial name
Lophiomys imhausi
Milne-Edwards, 1867

The maned rat or crested rat (Lophiomys imhausi) is a nocturnal, long-haired and bushy-tailed East African rodent that superficially resembles a porcupine.


The maned rat's body can grow up to 14 inches (360 mm) long, or 21 inches (530 mm) from head to tail. The coat consists of long, silver and black-tipped guard hairs over a dense, woolly, grey and white undercoat, with the face and limbs having short, black fur. A mane of longer, coarser black-and-white banded hairs extends from the top of the animal's head to just beyond the base of the tail. This mane is bordered by a broad, white-bordered strip of hairs covering an area of glandular skin.

When the animal is threatened or excited, the mane erects and this strip parts, exposing the glandular area. The hairs in this area are, at the tips, like ordinary hair, but are otherwise spongy, fibrous, and absorbent. The rat is known to deliberately smear these hairs with poison from the bark of the Acokanthera schimperi, on which it chews, thus creating a defense mechanism that can sicken or even kill predators which attempt to bite it.[1]

Lophiomys differs from typical Muridae in having the temporal fossa roofed over a thin plate of bone, rudimentary clavicles, and an opposable hallux. On these grounds, it has been made the type of a family; its dentition, however, is typical Cricetine.[2]


Its diet in the wild consists largely of leaves, fruit, and other plant material, but has been known to eat meat, cereals, root vegetables, and insects in captivity. Food is eaten by sitting on its haunches and using its forepaws to bring food items to its mouth.


The habitat of the maned rat ranges from nearly sea level, in Ethiopia and Somalia, to more typically the drier, highland forests and woodlands of Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Fossil remains have been found as far north as Israel, however. They are often found in rocky areas or in hollow tree trunks and holes along the tops of ravines, and have also been found nesting among rocks on cliff-faces.


  1. ^ Welsh, Jennifer (2 August 2011). "Giant Rat Kills Predators with Poisonous Hair". LiveScience. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Flower, William Henry; Lydekker, Richard (1891). An Introduction to the Study of Mammals Living and Extinct. A. and C. Black. 


  • Schlitter & Agwanda (2004). Lophiomys imhausi. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  • Jansa, S. A. and M. Weksler. 2004. Phylogeny of muroid rodents: relationships within and among major lineages as determined by IRBP gene sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 31:256-276.
  • Kingdon, Jonathan. East African Mammals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. 519-526.
  • Jonathan Kingdon, Bernard Agwanda, Margaret Kinnaird, Timothy O'Brien, Christopher Holland, Tom Gheysens, Maxime Boulet-Audet and Fritz Vollrath 2011 A poisonous surprise under the coat of the African crested rat Proc. R. Soc. B [1] doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1169

External links[edit]

Media related to Lophiomys imhausi at Wikimedia Commons