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Maxomys rajah Thomas, 1894
by Ms. Nor Hazwani Binti Ahmad Ruzman & Mr. Mohammad Shahfiz Azman

Brown spiny rat or locally known as Tikus Duri Hitam Pudar is one of the species from the family Muridae (Rats and Mice). Its body is covered with brown, sometimes with tinged reddish or orange hairs and has a darker midline with numerous stiff grey-brown spines (Francis, 2019). Its underparts are white with many short, soft white spines and usually with dark brown streaks along the middle of the belly in adults. Its inner sides of thighs are covered with white hairs which normally extend to feet. Its tail is sharply bicoloured, dark brown above and pale below, with thinly haired features. This species is about 16.5-22.5 cm (head-body length) and weighs around 95-220 g.

The brown spiny rat occurs throughout peninsular Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and adjacent smaller islands (Francis, 2019). It inhabits primary and secondary lowland forests up to 1100 m, including peat swamp forests and is occasionally found in plantations, especially those adjacent to forests (Nor, 2001; Francis, 2019; Phillipps & Phillipps, 2016). This rat is nocturnal, predominantly terrestrial and omnivorous. It actively forages on the forest ground searching for food such as fallen fruits, seeds, young shoots and insects among leaf litter, but occasionally climbs up to the upper canopy. For instance, the species is recorded to consume figs (Ficus sp.), Dipterocarpus validus fruits, and dipterocarp seeds (Wells & Bagchi, 2005; Wells et al., 2009; Phillipps & Phillipps, 2016).

The population of brown spiny rats is known to increase following general masting (mast seeding) and collapse during inter-mast intervals (Nakagawa et al., 2007). Apart from that, the species is recognised as a scatter hoarder whereby it tends to store fruits on the ground and is usually covered with leaves (Yasuda et al., 2000). The food hoarding behaviour may allow the animals to optimise foraging and feeding as well as to increase chances of survival especially during food scarcity (Yasuda et al., 2000). Scatter-hoarding rodents are considered effective dispersal agents of plants when the germination of neglected seeds is probable (Vander Wall, 1990; Vander Wall, 2001). Therefore, this species may play an important role as seed dispersers, though they are known as seed predators. In addition, this species is a host for Langat Virus vector namely Ixodes granulatus and also one of the carriers for leptospirosis (Madinah et al., 2011; Thayaparan et al., 2015).

Currently, the species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Ruedas, 2016). It is not protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA) 2010. The populations have declined considerably owing to extensive loss of its lowland forest habitat, largely through commercial logging and the conversion of land to agricultural use (Ruedas, 2016; Francis, 2019). Thus, it is very important to protect this species along with its habitats to sustain our natural forests.

References

  1. Francis, C.M. (2019). A field guide to the mammals of South-East Asia. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., London, United Kingdom.
  2. Konstans, W. & Bagchi, R. (2005). Eat in or Take Away – Seed Predation and Removal by Rats (Muridae) During a Fruiting Event in a Dipterocarp Rainforest. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 53(2): 281-286. . https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/app/uploads/2017/06/53rbz281-286.pdf
  3. Konstans, W., Corlett, R.T., Lakim, M., Kalko, E.K.V. & Pfeiffer, M. (2009). Seed consumption by small mammals from Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 25: 555-558. . https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467409990058
  4. Madinah, A., Fatimah, A., Mariana, A. & Abdullah, M.T. (2011). Ectoparasites of Small Mammals in Four Localities of Wildlife Reserves in Peninsular Malaysia. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 42(4): 803-813 . . https://www.tm.mahidol.ac.th/seameo/2011-42-4/06-4984.pdf
  5. Nakagawa, M., Miguchi, H., Sato, K. & Nakashizuka, T. (2007). A Preliminary Study of Two Sympatric Maxomys Rats in Sarawak, Malaysia: Spacing Patterns and Population Dynamics. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 55(2): 381–387. . https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/app/uploads/2017/06/55rbz381-387.pdf
  6. Nor, S.M., Batin, Z. & Zubaid, A. (2001). Elevational Diversity Pattern of Non-volant Small Mammals on Mount Nuang, Hulu Langat, Selangor. Journal of Biological Sciences, 1 (11):1081-1084. . https://doi.org/10.3923/jbs.2001.1081.1084
  7. Phillipps, Q. & Phillipps, K. (2016). Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan. United Kingdom: John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd.
  8. Ruedas, L. (2016). Maxomys rajah. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12904A22455724. Retrieved February 04, 2022, from https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.20162.RLTS.T12904A22455724.en
  9. Thayaparan, S., Robertson, I. & Abdullah, M.T. (2015). Serological and molecular detection of Leptospira spp. from small wild mammals captured in Sarawak, Malaysia. Malaysian Journal of Microbiology 11(1): 93-101. . https://doi.org/10.21161/MJM.67514
  10. Vander Wall, S.B. (1990). Food Hoarding in Animals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. pp. 445.
  11. Vander Wall, S.B. (2001). The evolutionary ecology of nut dispersal. The Botanical Review, 67: 74–117. . https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02857850
  12. Yasuda, M., Miura, S. & Hussien, N. A. (2000). Evidence for food hoarding behaviour in terrestrial rodents in Pasoh forest reserve, a Malaysian lowland rain forest. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, 12: 164–173. . https://www.frim.gov.my/v1/JTFSOnline/jtfs/v12n1/164-173.pdf
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