Platacanthomys lasiurusMalabar spiny dormouse

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Geographic Range

Platacanthomys lasiurus, or Malabar Spiny Dormice, are found in southern India in the mountains of the Western Ghats. These dormice are endemic to India. (Grzimek, 1975; Mudappa, et al., 2001)

Habitat

Commonly found in rocky, forested areas, Platacanthomys lasiurus make nests in knotholes of trees, cavities in trunks, and occasionally in spaces between rocks. Nests are made of moss and leaves. Good habitat consists of canopy cover and a large proportion of climbing plants, such as lianas.

(Grzimeks, 1975; Mudappa et al., 2001; Nowak, 1995)

  • Range elevation
    600 to 900 m
    1968.50 to 2952.76 ft

Physical Description

Platacanthomys lasiurus have a reddish-brown upper body and a whitish under belly. The fur on the back is interspersed with broad, flat, stiff spines. The tail is only furred at the tip and resembles a brush; it is generally a darker color than the body, though it does lighten at the tip. The tail, ranging from 75 to 100 mm in length, is usually slightly shorter than the body length, which ranges from 130 to 212 mm. Platacanthomys lasiurus have small eyes and ears and a pointed muzzle. Average mass is 75 g.

Platacanthomys lasiurus differ from true dormice (Family Gliridae) in that they have only 3 cheekteeth, as opposed to the 4 that true dormice have. The cheekteeth are high crowned. (Nowak, 1995; Tate, 1947)

  • Average mass
    75 g
    2.64 oz
  • Average mass
    75 g
    2.64 oz
    AnAge
  • Range length
    130 to 212 mm
    5.12 to 8.35 in

Reproduction

Mating system in these animals is unknown.

Reproduction rates generally rise during the wet season. During this time, females often gain weight, which is indicative of their breeding status. The wet season is also the time when most juveniles are dispersing. This is supported by capture data. There is little available information on reproduction in these animals.

(Mudappa et al., 2001)

Details of parental care in these animals are unknown.

Lifespan/Longevity

A wild born female lived for 20 months in captivity. Lifespan in the wild is unknown.

(Nowak, 1995)

Behavior

Platacanthomys lasiurus is arboreal and probably primarily active at night. They use their long tail as a balancing organ. Little is known about social organization or behavior in these animals.

(Mudappa et al, 2001)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Platacanthomys lasiurus are herbivorous. In general, they eat fruits, grains, roots, seeds, and peppers. It is their ability to destroy large crops of pepper plants that has lead them to be called pepper rats.

(Grzimek, 1975; Nowak, 1995)

Predation

The spines on P. lasiurus's back are very useful anti-predator devices. It has been reported that cats will not try to eat them. Their nocturnal habits also protect them from some predators. Little information on natural predators or anti-predator behaviors is available.

(Grzimek, 1975)

Ecosystem Roles

Malabar spiny dormice are important prey species in the ecosystems in which they live, they also may be involved in seed dispersal of the fruits they eat.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Malabar spiny dormice are important members of the community in which they live.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Platacanthomys lasiurus adversely affect humans because of the large amount of damage they can do to pepper crops. In some areas, they became so numerous that hunting was a necessity. They also get into "toddy-pots" and drink the fermented palm juice that is kept inside.

(Grzimek, 1975; Nowak, 1995)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Platacanthomys lasiurus populations are sensitive to habitat changes. To maintain healthy populations, large areas of undisturbed rainforest are needed.

(Mudappa et al., 2001)

Other Comments

There has not been much research done on Malabar spiny dormice.

(Mudappa et al., 2001)

Contributors

Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Sarah Foote (author), Michigan State University.

Glossary

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

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

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

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

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.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

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.

viviparous

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

References

Grzimek, B. 1975. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol 12. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co..

Mudappa, D., A. Kumar, R. Chellam. 2001. Abundance and habitat selection of the Malabar spiny dormouse in the rainforests of the southern Western Ghats, India. Current Science, 80: 424-427.

Nowak, R. 1995. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed 09 April, 2002 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walker/rodentia.muridae.platacanthomys.html.

Tate, G. 1947. Mammals of Eastern Asia. New York: McMillan Company.