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Kidadl Team

SEPTEMBER 02, 2021

19 Malagasy Giant Rat Facts You’ll Never Forget

Check out these interesting Malagasy giant rat facts.

The Malagasy giant jumping rat, also known as votsotsa or votsovotsa, is a rodent similar to rabbits. Like rabbits, they live in burrows typically consisting of complex underground tunnels, each at least 17 ft (5.1 m) long. They also look more similar to a rabbit than a rat since they have large ears and large back feet that they use to jump. They would jump to avoid predators only since their normal mode of movement is walking. They are also gray or grayish-brown in color and are usually darker on the head. Their limbs, feet, and bellies are white or pale, and their tails have short, dark, and stiff hair. Their family usually consists of a monogamous pair and offspring, living in their burrow and expanding their territory. They are known to expand their territory in the dry season when food is scarce.

For more relatable content, check out these muskrat facts and field vole facts.

Malagasy Giant Rat Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Malagasy giant rat?

The Malagasy giant jumping rat, Hypogeomys antimena, is a nesomyid rodent species found only in the Menabe region of Madagascar.

What class of animal does a Malagasy giant rat belong to?

The Malagasy giant jumping rat, Hypogeomys antimena, belongs to the Mammalia class of the family Nesomyidae.

How many Malagasy giant rats are there in the world?

In a population analysis done in 2002, 23 active burrows per 100 hectares, and a southern population of 6,900 adults, and a northern population of 1,840 adults was found. A similar survey in 2005 estimated the total population size of the Malagasy giant jumping rat to be 36,000 in total. There was no evidence of any change in their active burrow density across the species' known range between these years. Hypogeomys antimena were not uniformly distributed, and most of their actives burrows were found in the forest with the highest canopy areas far from the forest edges.

Where does a Malagasy giant rat live?

The Hypogeomys antimena, or Malagasy giant jumping rat, can be found in western Madagascar, especially around Morondava.

What is a Malagasy giant rat's habitat?

The Malagasy giant jumping rat can be found in dry deciduous forests and sandy coastal areas on the western coast of Madagascar. The Malagasy giant jumping rat lives in long and deep burrows that are 16 ft (4.8 m) in length with up to six entrance holes.

Who do Malagasy giant rats live with?

Malagasy giant jumping rats are nocturnal and monogamous and live with their family until they die. The male and female Malagasy giant jumping rat pairs are highly territorial and defend their territory from other rats. They mark their territory using scent gland secretions.

How long does a Malagasy giant rat live?

The life of the Malagasy giant jumping rat is known to be 10 years in human care. Their lifespan in the wild is still unknown due to very little information.

How do they reproduce?

The male Malagasy giant jumping rat reaches sexual maturity after a year, but they do not mate until they reach the age of one to two years. On the other hand, the female Malagasy giant jumping rat reaches sexual maturity after two years. The Malagasy giant jumping rat is a monogamous animal, making them one of the very few rodent species to be monogamous. After mating, the pair stay together until either one dies. Upon the death of either of the mates, females would stay inside the burrow until she finds a new male, whereas the males would usually move to live with a widowed female. The pair are known to mate once or twice during the breeding season, which is the Madagascar rainy season (December to April), where after a gestation period of 102-138 days, females would give birth to a single offspring. Both the parents are known to take care of the young in the family burrow for the first four to six weeks. The young Malasagy giant rat would then explore and forage outside while still living in the family unit until they reach sexual maturity. As soon as the young males reach sexual maturity, they leave to find their own burrow, and the females, after sexually maturing at the age of two years, live with their parents for another year. The male parents are also known to defend the young or the offspring at such extreme levels that it sometimes becomes the reason for their own predation by predators like the Madagascar ground boa.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status listed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened species is Endangered. This is mostly because of habitat loss, a slow reproduction process, and a limited home range, which is only about 77.2 sq mi (200 sq km) north of Morondava.

Malagasy Giant Rat Fun Facts

What do Malagasy giant rats look like?

The Malagasy giant rats are nocturnal animals.

The Malagasy giant rat (scientific name Hypogeomys antimena) looks like a rabbit and has long pointed ears, short fur, and large rear feet. They look very much like rabbits but at the same time have rat-like facial features. They also have a coarse coat whose color varies from gray to brown to reddish and darkens around their head and fades to white on their bellies. They have very prominent and pointed ears, muscular back legs, which they use for jumping to avoid their predators. The Malagasy giant jumping rat is also the largest rodent on the island of Madagascar.

How cute are they?

These nocturnal rats look similar to rabbits but have the facial features of a rodent, making them very unique rodents by their looks.

How do they communicate?

There isn't much information available on how they communicate. However, it is known that they are known to mark their territory by the use of scent glands, urine, etc.

How big is a Malagasy giant rat?

The Malagasy giant rat is almost the size of a rabbit. It measures up to 12-14 in (30.4-35.5 cm), and the tail alone measures 8-10 in (20.3-25.4 cm), making it the largest rodent on the island of Madagascar and twice the size of the rice rat.

How fast can a Malagasy giant rat run?

It is not known how fast the Malagasy giant jumping rat can run.

How much does a Malagasy giant rat weigh?

The average weight of a Malagasy giant rat is around 2-3 lb (1-1.3 kg) which is about eight times the size of the kangaroo rat.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The Malagasy giant rat males and females do not have any different names.

What would you call a baby Malagasy giant rat?

A Malagasy giant rat offspring, like other rat babies, is called a pup or kitten.

What do they eat?

The giant jumping rats are nocturnal animals and leave their burrow at dusk to feed on fallen fruit and seeds. The giant jumping rats are observed to consume food like squirrels by holding the fallen fruit or the seeds in their forepaws while sitting semi-upright on their haunches. The giant jumping rats are also observed stripping bark from saplings.

Are they dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous in any way.

Would they make a good pet?

This species has been studied in captivity before. However, given their wild habitat, nocturnal behavior, and other factors, it's hard to say if the giant jumping rats would make a good pet.

Did you know... 

The Hypogeomys antimena species is the only extant species of this genus. Another species known from this genus, Hypogeomys australis, is known from the subfossil remains from a few thousand years ago.

The Malagasy giant rat skeleton also consists of apatite (a type of group of minerals).

Can Malagasy giant rats jump?

The Malagasy giant jumping rat can jump almost 3 ft (1 m) in the air with the use of their rear feet to avoid predators like the puma-like foss and the Madagascar ground boa. However, their normal mode of movement is walking only.

Why is the Malagasy giant rat endangered?

The Malagasy giant rat is endangered mostly because of habitat loss, a slow reproduction process, and limited home range on the island of Madagascar. The species also face endangerment due to the introduction of animals like dogs and cats on the island, which are threats to the giant rats because of either predation or potential transmission of lethal toxoplasmosis.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these jerboa facts and tufted titmouse facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable kangaroo mouse coloring pages.

Main image by Petr Hamerník.

Second image by Petr Hamerník.

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