Phloeomys cumingisouthern Luzon giant cloud rat

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Geographic Range

Phloeomys cumingi is endemic to the Philippine islands of the Palearctic Region. The type specimen was collected in Southwestern Luzon by Cuming. Since the discovery and naming of slender-tailed cloud rats in 1839, the species has been found on the nearby small islands of Marinduque, Mindoro, and Catanduanes. Specific capture locations include Cape Engano, Mont Data, Mont Tirac, Mont Lalaya, Lepanto, Trinidad, Irisan, Haights-in-the Oaks, Benguet, Nueva Ecija, and Baay, Abra. (; Heaney, et al., 1991; Hollister, 1912; Sanborn, 1952; ; Taylor, 1934; Thomas, 1898; ; )

Habitat

Slender-tailed cloud rats have been found from sea level to 900 m (2,952 ft). P. cumingi is found in forested areas and is semi-fossorial, living in burrows underground. It has been suggested that the inhabited burrows were not dug by P. cumingi, but were abandoned by other animals. Specimens are often captured in hollow logs. Slender-tailed cloud rats have been found in degraded lowland forest and have spread to pasture and farmland. (; Oliver, et al., 1993; Schauenberg, 1978; Thomas, 1898)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 900 m
    0.00 to 2952.76 ft

Physical Description

The subfamily Phloeomyinae is distinguished by molars divided by transverse, plate-like cusps, a thickly furred tail, and a larger body size than other members of the family Muridae. The molars are generally worn down in adults, but are still noticeably hypsodont. The type specimen described by Cuming is distinguished from the similar genus Capromys by unique skull morphology in which the interparietal bone is rounded, the auditory bullae are reduced, and the upper tooth rows show an anterior convergence. (Ellerman, 1941; Taylor, 1934)

Several body characters distinguish P. cumingi from other murid rodents, including the presence of only one set of mammae. The muzzle is short, and long hair covers the outside of the ears. The pelage color patterns vary greatly, but are often described as dark brown or black and white. The coat texture is rough, with longer, lighter colored hairs interspersed in the dorsal portion of the coat, and longer hairs on the head and back. The ventral portion is paler than the rest of the coat. The long, thick hair of the tail is blacker than the coat. The other recognized species of slender-tailed cloud rat, P. pallidus, is larger than P. cumingi and is differentiated by its longer, softer, and paler fur. Some controversy remains, however, as to whether this species is just a seasonal or latitudinal variation of P. cumingi. (Crandall, 1964; Ellerman, 1941; ; Schauenberg, 1978; Taylor, 1934; Thomas, 1898; )

The tail of P. cumingi is generally shorter than the head and body length. The feet are wide and large, and are bare on the walking surface. There are long claws on the forefeet. The length of the head and body ranges from 440 to 482.6 mm. Tail lengths have been reported from 320 to 350 mm. The forefoot, not including the claws, measures 43.4 mm, and the hind foot measures 70 mm. Ears measure 25.4 mm. The skull, described as ovate, measures a 59.2 mm in length, and has a width of 43.3 mm. (Hollister, 1912; Taylor, 1934; )

Dissection of the digestive tract has revealed that the caecum, which aids in the digestion of tough plant material, is unusually long and is larger (in width and length) than the stomach. Additionally, a unique parasitic nematode, Neoheligmonella schaenbergi, has been discovered in the digestive tract of P. cumingi. (Schauenberg, 1978; Vaucher and Durette-Desset, 1983)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    1.45 to 2.1 kg
    3.19 to 4.63 lb
  • Range length
    330 to 482 mm
    12.99 to 18.98 in

Reproduction

No information is currently available on the mating system of P. cumingi, or of the other member of the genus, P. pallidus.

Very little is known about the reproductive patterns of slender-tailed cloud rats. Only single births have ever been recorded in captivity. Births have been observed in captivity in Washington, D.C. over every month of the year except January, March, and May. The young of P. cumingi are suspended by a teat and remain attached there while the mother moves around. The small amount of data on the birthing season of P. cumingi in the wild has been obtained by examining recent uterine scars of captured specimens. These data show that births occur in the late rainy season (December). January to May is the dry season in Luzon, and no birth scars were observed in specimens captured during these times. (Crandall, 1964; Heaney, et al., 1991; Schauenberg, 1978)

  • Breeding interval
    The frequency of breeding is unknown.
  • Breeding season
    The time of year in which mating occurs is unknown.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge

The female nurses and carries the juvenile, which attaches to a teat for an unreported amount of time. The degree of development and size at birth has not beet reported, nor has the male role in parental care in this species. (Schauenberg, 1978)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Slender-tailed cloud rats are known to live and reproduce successfully in captivity. One animal born in the Washington Zoo reached an age of thirteen years, seven months, and six days. Longevity in the wild has not been reported. (Crandall, 1964; Schauenberg, 1978)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    13.6 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    13.6 (high) years

Behavior

Slender-tailed cloud rats are reported by locals of Luzon and the surrounding islands to be nocturnal and arboreal. The species has also been reported as active on overcast days when in captivity in Dresden, London, Holland, New York, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. The animals on display were kept together in a group of eight, consisting of five adults (sexes not identified) and three mature offspring. Additionally, these animals are reported to be indifferent, placid, and quiet while in captivity, spending the majority of their time in the branches within their enclosure. (Crandall, 1964; Ellerman, 1941; ; Heaney, et al., 1991; ; Schauenberg, 1978)

The long claws on the forefeet are modified for climbing. Cloud rats observed in captivity have shown a preference for a certain hand. Farmers and hunters in Luzon report that the animal is solitary or found in pairs of a mother with her young, or a male and female, but occasionally they are seen in groups. Farmers also warn that cloud-rats are strong and aggressive, requiring special care during capture. One researcher did, however, keep a Cuming’s rat in his room as a rather agreeable pet. (Crandall, 1964; Ellerman, 1941; ; Heaney, et al., 1991; ; Schauenberg, 1978)

Home Range

No information has been reported about the home range of these animals.

Communication and Perception

Several researchers who kept the animals in captivity for study report that cloud rats makes short growls when irritated, similar to the growl of a marmot. As mammals, we can infer that they probably have other means of communication as well, including physical posturing, tactile communication, and scents, although the literature does not contain specific mention of these. (; Schauenberg, 1978)

Food Habits

Waterhouse first named this animal “Phloeomys” or bark-eating mouse, from reports by Cuming on the lignivorous diet of the species. In its natural habitat, little is known about diet, although it has been reported to eat young vegetation (particularly favoring red leaves) and roots. Captive specimens around the world have been offered an omnivorous diet, including a wide range of plants, grains, and proteins. Plants and grains fed include rolled oats, apples, carrots, celery, lettuce, cabbage, endive, sunflower seeds, cooked reufs, primate supplement NAFAG, biscuits, bread, and Gist-o-cal supplement. The animals have been fed such diverse proteins as fortified dog food, rodent food, ground nuts, fish, bird carcasses, beef, mice, and goats. The animals in captivity also consume large amounts of wood, although the type was not reported. (Crandall, 1964; Heaney, et al., 1991; ; Nagtegaal, 1976; Schauenberg, 1978; )

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • fish
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

The only reported predators of P. cumingi are humans. The animal is a food source, with some local hunters reporting that they killed up to 50 P. cumingi in a year. This animal is also known to be used in at least one medicinal treatment. No information is currently available on anti-predation behavior, although many specimens captured were burnt out of hollow trees, where it is possible they sought refuge. (Heaney, et al., 1991; Oliver, et al., 1993; Schauenberg, 1978)

Ecosystem Roles

Slender-tailed cloud rats have incredible adaptability to an environment that is becoming converted from forest land to agricultural areas, as it is still found in these areas. Local farmers report that it is not a pest to humans, despite the omnivore's potential for crop destruction. Additionally, continued hunting of the animal has not significantly decreased its numbers. The only other reported interaction of P. cumingi with another species concerns the parasitic nematode N. schauenbergi, which was first dicovered in the alcohol-preserved digestive tract of an animal prepared five years earlier. (Heaney, et al., 1991; Oliver, et al., 1993; Schauenberg, 1978; Vaucher and Durette-Desset, 1983)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Noeheligmonella schaunbergi

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The primary benefit of slender-tailed cloud rats to humans is as a source of food. Their large body size and adaptability to deforestation, ensure that it is a stable meat source for local people. P. cumingi has also been considered for use as a form of "microlivestock" in forested areas, as an alternative to raising large-scale, unsustainable, traditional domesticated animals for meat sources. (Heaney, et al., 1991; National Research Council, 1991)

A single medicinal use is known, in which locals drink water with the hair of P. cumingi in it to relieve stomach cramps. (Wharton, 1948)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No adverse effects of the species on humans are reported. (Heaney, et al., 1991)

Conservation Status

IUCN lists this species as vulnerable, presumably because of habitat destruction. However, numbers of these animals do not appear to be decreasing, in spite of habitat destruction and hunting.

Other Comments

Local names for P. cumingi include bugkoon, parout, parret, alimaong, jaula, bohot, and eut-eut. (; ; Oliver, et al., 1993; ; Thomas, 1898)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jaime Bryk (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Crandall, L. 1964. The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ellerman, J. 1941. The Families and Genera of Living Rodents. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Gonzales, P. 1993. Cloud Rats in the Philippines-preliminary report on destribution and status. Oryx, 27/1: 41-48.

Heaney, L., P. Gonzales, R. Utzurrum, E. Rickart. 1991. The mammals of Catanduanes Island: Implications for the biogeography of small land-bridge islands in the Philippines. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash., 104/2: 399-415.

Heaney, L., E. Rickart. 1990. Correlations of clades and clines: geographic, elevational, and phylogenetic distribution patterns among Philippine mammals. Pages 321-332 in G. Peters and R. Hutterer (editors), Vertebrates in the Tropics.. Mus. Alexander Koenig: Bonn.

Hollister, N. 1912. A list of the Mammals of the Philippine Islands, exclusive of the Cetacea. Philippine J. Sci., Ser. D. Biology, 7: 1-64.

Nagtegaal, J. 1976. New Arrivals at Wassenaar Zoo during the first quarter of 1976. Int. Zoo. News, 136: 48.

National Research Council, 1991. Microlivestock: Little-Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future. Washington, D. C.: National Academy Press. Accessed March 18, 2004 at http://www.nap.edu/books/030904295X/html/.

Oliver, W., C. Cox, P. Gonzales, L. Heaney. 1993. Cloud rats in the Phillipines-preliminary report on distribution and status. Oryx, 27/1: 41-48.

Sanborn, C. 1952. Philippine Zoological Expedition 1946-1947. Mammals. Fieldiana Zool., 33: 87-158.

Schauenberg, P. 1978. Note sur le Rat de Cuming Phloeomys cumingi Waterhouse 1839 (Rodentia, Phloeomyidae). Revue suisse Zool., 85/2: 341-347.

Taylor, E. 1934. Phillipine Land Mammals. unknown.: Philippine Bur. Sci. Monogr..

Thomas, O. 1898. On the mammals obtained by Mr. John Whitehead during his recent expedition to the Philippines. Proc. Zool. Soc., 14: 377-411.

Vaucher, C., M. Durette-Desset. 1983. Neoheligmonella schauenbergi n. sp. (Nematoda: Trichostrongyloidea), parasite du Rat de Cuming Phloeomys cumingi Waterhouse. Revue suisse Zool., 90/4: 935-938.

Wharton, C. 1948. Seeking Mindanao's Strangest Creatures. Nat. Geogr. Mag., 94: 389-408.