Eliurus minorlesser tufted-tailed rat

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Geographic Range

Small tuft-tailed rats, Eliurus minor, range primarily along the east side of the island of Madagascar. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Habitat

Eliurus minor resides in a wide elevational distribution within Madagascar's moist evergreen forests. Specifically, these animals are found from Montagne d'Ambre in the north to the southern termini of the Anosyennes and Vohimena Mountains. There have been specimens collected from near sea level to 1875 m. (Garbutt, 1999; Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

  • Range elevation
    near sea level to 1875 m
    to 6151.57 ft

Physical Description

Eliurus minor is the smallest member of the genus. It ranges from about 106.7 mm to 118.9 mm, not including the tail. Its weight ranges from 29.3 g to 40.9 g. The tail accounts for about 60% of the total length, measuring around 130.0 mm. The tail is usually dark-brown or blackish in color. Tuft-tailed rats have a soft, dense coat with moderately long hairs. The dorsal pelage is greyish-brown to cinnamon-brown with dark guard hairs, and the ventral pelage is a distinctly lighter color. (Garbutt, 1999; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1997)

  • Range mass
    29.3 to 40.9 g
    1.03 to 1.44 oz
  • Range length
    236.7 to 248.9 mm
    9.32 to 9.80 in

Reproduction

Little is know about the mating systems in this species. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

The litter size of E. minor ranges from 2 to 4. The breeding season of this species occurs in the last quarter or the year (October to December). There has been some evidence of increased levels of reproduction at higher elevations in populations of Eliurus, and this may occur in E. minor. Little is known about the gestation period or breeding interval of this species. Similarly, the times of weaning and sexual maturity are not known. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

  • Breeding interval
    The breeding interval of these animals is not known.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in the last quarter of the year, from October to December.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 4

Parental investment has not been documented for E. minor. However, as in all mammals, we can assume that these mice give birth to live young which the mother cares for in some type of nest or burrow. In all mammals, the mother provides her young with protection, grooming, and food, in the form of milk. The duration of maternal care is not known for E. minor, nor is the role of males in parental care.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The expected lifespan in E. minor has not been reported.

Behavior

Eliurs minor has broad hindfeet, a long outer digit, highly developed plantar pads, and a tail longer than the body, all of which suggest an arboreal habit. Also, there have been specimens collected among boulders and rock outcrops, suggesting terrestrial activity. Beyond this, nothing is known about the behavior of these animals. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Home Range

The size of home ranges in E. minor has not been reported. (Garbutt, 1999; Goodman and Benstead, 2003; Nowak, 1997)

Communication and Perception

Communication in E. minor has not been documented. However, we can assume that these animals are like other similar mammal. It is likely that there is some tactile communication, especially between mothers and their offspring and between mates. Scent cues probably play some role in communication, especially in relation to reproduction. Visual and vocal signals are probably also used, although they have not been documented.

Food Habits

From various fecal samples, there is evidence that E. minor may feed on coconut. Also, there have been findings of gnawed seeds in their habitat, and specimens have been caught in fruiting trees. It seems likely from this that these animals eat fruits and grains, although other dietary components cannot be ruled out. (Garbutt, 1999; Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Known predators of E. minor are birds and mammals in forest communities. E. minor and E. webbi composed 61% of the prey recovered from regurgitated pellets of two owl species, Asio madagascariensis and Tyto soumagnei. (Goodman and Benstead, 2003)

Ecosystem Roles

Because gnawed seeds are found in conjunction with these animals, it can be speculated that they may be involved in destruction and possible dispersal of seeds. As prey, E. minor may be an important part of local food webs. These animals are also vectors for parasites and disease.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Elurius minor is not known to have any positive economic impact on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Elurius minor is not known to have any negative economic impact on humans.

Conservation Status

Although E. minor is not listed as endangered by CITES or IUCN, it is a member of a genus which occupies very threatened habitat. Nowak (1999) reports that other members of the genus are listed as endangered or near threatened. (Nowak, 1999)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Maureen Belknap (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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

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

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.

island endemic

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

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.

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.

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

Garbutt, N. 1999. "Eliurus minor, Small Tuft-tailed Rat" (On-line). Accessed April 01, 2004 at http://info.bio.sunysb.edu/rano.biodiv/Mammals/Eliurus-minor/.

Goodman, S., J. Benstead. 2003. The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World" (On-line). Rats, Mice Hamsters, Voles, Lemmings and Gerbils. Accessed November 04, 2004 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.muridae.html.