Texas kangaroo rat
Texas kangaroo rat
The Texas kangaroo rat, Dipodomys elator, is a rodent of the family Heteromyidae. It is endemic to Texas where it lives in association with mesquite brush and in areas with firm clay-loam soils. It is a relatively large kangaroo rat that ranges in size from approximately 60 grams to 95 or more. Males and females of this species are sexually dimorphic, males being larger than females. Its distribution is within north-central Texas and it is only found within 13 counties. It was formerly found in Oklahoma, but is thought to have since been extirpated. The species is listed as threatened by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the IUCN lists the species as vulnerable.
Little is known about the species ecology and there are many differing ideas when it comes to this. One of the main arguments is concerning mesquite. Although it does occur in conjunction with mesquite, some studies indicate that their burrows are found only under mesquite bushes while others indicate that there is not this tight-knit association. As the more recent studies have concluded the latter, this is probably more realistic.
The rat has been shown in a study that analyzed cheek pouch contents of several individuals to eat leaves of grasses and some perennials, stems, and seeds. Seeds of Johnson grass and cultivated oats make up the largest part of their diet. Breeding has not been studied extensively but generally they have a promiscuous mating system, mature early, mate all year with peaks in spring and summer, and have about 3 young per brood.
One of the largest threats that this organism faces is habitat loss and degradation due to grazing and agriculture within Texas. Grazing is a large issue because the cattle eat the grasses that they feed on and cattle ranchers will clear the mesquite they are associated with. They clear the Mesquite Bosques and individual trees because it can stunt grass growth. This is an area that should be researched more in order to better understand their habitat selection and the effect that these land-use practices have on organism.
- Linzey, A. V. & NatureServe (Wahl, R., Roth, E., Hammerson, G. & Horner, P. (2008). Dipodomys elator. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
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- Mammals of Texas. Texas Kangaroo Rat
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