Nile Rat - African Animals

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Nile Rat

Scientific Name: Arvicanthis niloticus
Common Name: Nile Rat

Description: A vole-like rat with a stout body, coarse fur and short legs. Its fifth toe is reduced but usable. It ranges in colour from buff to olive brown to dark gray-brown, sometimes with a dorsal stripe. The fur on the belly is usually lighter in colour than that on the rest of the body. The fur appears grizzled due the dark tips of the ends of the hairs.

Distribution: The Nile rat ranges throughout most of Africa and mentioned in many chronicles of African adventure explorers , with the greatest concentration in East Africa as well as along the Nile river. 

Average Weight: 50 to 120 g.
Habitat: Savanna grasslands; however, it can also survive in a desert climate, provided that the area receives some form of regular irrigation.

Habits: They are a gregarious species, residing in burrows under grass patches with varying numbers of conspecifics, depending on the overall population density. The animals use "runways" to travel from grazing patch to grazing patch and back to the colony. These runways take advantage of natural formations of the ground and are smooth, dirt trails that resemble min1ature hiking paths. The rodents will clear the paths of small obstructions and keep the surrounding grass clipped out of the way. The Nile Rat is agile and quick despite its slightly pudgy appearance and seems to be able to return to its home range when released within a quarter-mile of where it is captured. Home range size is variable, ranging from 37 to 86m for males, and 38 to 47m for females, depending on whether the animals were studied during high density periods or low density periods, respectively. 

Main feeding time:  The Nile Rat is a diurnal creature and is most active in the morning, before the sun is overhead, but also has periods of evening activity and some activity during the night hours.

Size: Between 10 and 20 cm in length

Gestation: 18 days
Number of young at birth: 5-6 young, each weighing from 3-6 grams; these are weaned at about 3 weeks.

Age: up to 6 years
Diet: mostly grains, seeds and grass shoots. It can, however, subsist on other fare, such as insects and fruits

Enemies: Carnivorous mammals and birds, such as mongooses, eagles, leopards and jackals

Interesting facts: Is sometimes used by humans as a source of food. Mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts and been the source of the bubonic plague along the Nile and in ancient Egypt