Friday, October 8, 2010

Kangaroo Rat

Not kangaroos, yet not actual rats, Kangaroo Rats are rodents of the genus Dipodomys. There are currently around 20 known species, all of whom live in arid regions of the American West and Southwest. California is especially rich in species.

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Kangaroo Rats are well adapted to their dry environments. They have kidneys that are extremely efficient; they are able to dispose waste without wasting precious water. They are able to take in water from the food they eat, and are able to store that food for long amounts of time in  cheek pouches. They also neither sweat nor pant as they would result in water loss. Kangaroo Rats get their name from the fact that they bounce around on their hind legs much like the large marsupials. They are able to jump several times their own body length, sometimes over six feet, to escape predators, and they have especially long tails that help for balance.

Kangaroo Rats are solitary animals and live in burrow and in territories that they defend. They use their powerful hind legs to kick sand at and attack trespassers. The sand technique is also used when fleeing from predators. They do have numerous natural predators including Coyotes, Snakes, and Owls.

Females may have three litters a year, and the overall life expectancy is between two and five years. Kangaroo Rats are not currently threatened.

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