Whitetailed mouse

Mystromys albicaudatus

SUBFAMILY

Mystromyinae

TAXONOMY

Mystromys albicaudatus (Smith, 1834), South Africa, eastern Cape Province.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Critical differences, including their lack of check pouches, in the single species in this subfamily led to their elevation to the subfamily level, though their affinities remain obscure. Head and body length 3.3-4.1 in (84-105 mm); weigh 2.6-3.9 oz (75-111 g); tail 1.9-3.8 in (50-97 mm). The fur is soft and long, buffy gray above with black-tipped hairs; this darker dorsal coloration gradually lightens along the sides to the entirely white belly. The thick tail is covered with stiff bristles and the ears are large and rounded. The incisors are pale yellow and ungrooved, and the cheek tooth laminar pattern is unique.

DISTRIBUTION

Found in the uplands and Cape region of South Africa and Swaziland.

HABITAT

Found in grassy and sandy areas, they live in holes in the ground and the burrows of other mammals.

BEHAVIOR

Active mainly at night and may be especially active during wet weather. They do well in captivity, becoming tame and playful. Little is known about their social behavior.

I Lophiomys imhausi I Hypogeomys antimena I Mystromys albicaudatus

I Petromyscus collinus I Cricetomys gambianus I Nannospalax ehrenbergi

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Seeds seem to be their primary diet, though grasses and insects are also sometimes taken.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Have an unusual method of raising young: soon after birth, the young attach themselves to their mother's mammae and remain attached for about three weeks. The female drags them about during this time. They continue to suckle intermittently for another 2-3 weeks. The survival rate of young is high for rodents, as the mother can provide direct protection for her young. Sexual maturity is reached at about five months of age and litters can be produced as often as every 36 days. Mean litter size is 2.9 young. In captivity, they may live as long as six years; lifespan in the wild is unknown.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Little is known. Populations may be threatened by modifications to their habitat as a result of agriculture and grazing, and they are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Although they may act as disease vectors and agricultural pests, it is most likely that they have a minimal effect on humans. They are important parts of the ecosystems in which they live, acting as seed dispersers and an important prey base for small predators. ♦

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