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The greater stick-nest rat, house-building rat (Leporillus conditor) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. They are about the size of a small rabbit and construct large nests of interwoven sticks. Once widespread across southern Australia, the population was reduced after colonisation to one island; the species has been reintroduced to protected and monitored areas.

Greater stick-nest rat
Greater Sticknest Rat.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Genus: Leporillus
Species:
L. conditor
Binomial name
Leporillus conditor
(Sturt, 1848)[2]
Distribution Map Leporillus conditor AUS (2).png

Contents

TaxonomyEdit

A description of the species was given in a report of the exploer Charles Sturt, and published in 1848.[2][3] The species was placed as genus Mus, and later assigned to Leporillus, and so allied to the murid family of rodents. The type was collected in vegetation on the Darling River, around 45 miles from Laidley Ponds, the disposition of this specimen is unknown.[3]

DescriptionEdit

The species has a broad and short head, with wide and rounded ears. The length of the head and body combined in 190 to 260 millimetres, and a tail noticeably shorter than that, measuring from 148 to 180 mm. The weight ranges from 190 to 450 grams. The pelage is a uniform grey-brown colour at the upper-side, the buff to grey beneath is paler and the two colours blend where they meet. The visible parts of the foot are whitish at the inside and greyish brown at the outside, this is from 42 to 48 mm in length. The female possesses four teats, two pairs at the inguinal region.[4]

BehaviourEdit

The behavioural description is of a passive and gentle species, largely active at night, with a herbivorous diet largely composed of succulent leaves. The 'nest' of L. conditor is sited at a cave, rocky outcrop or over a shrub, the construction reaching a metre in height and around two metres in width. The larger part of the nest is tightly woven from sticks, the inner part is built from softer grassy material.[4]

Breeding may occur throughout the year, although most often recorded during the austral spring, April to May, and they produce a litter of between one and four young.[4]

Distribution and habitatEdit

It is found only in Australia on the Franklin Islands and St Peter Island in the Nuyts Archipelago, Reevesby Island, Salutation Island, Faure Island and Heirisson Prong, and a fenced off area at Roxby Downs in South Australia.[5] It was formerly widespread in semi-arid habitat on the mainland,[6] where the soils were shallow with calcareous underlying strata.[7] Before the sharp decline in population in the late nineteenth century, the species was found south of a line from Shark Bay to the meeting of the rivers at the Murray–Darling basin and above the 28° southern latitude. The drastic contraction of the distribution range continued until the species could only be found at an island in the Nuyts Archipelago, from this population the species was reintroduced to the protected areas on the mainland and other islands.[4]

Its natural habitat is dry savanna, with perennial shrubland, especially of succulent and semi-succulent plant species including the chenopod and pig-face genera.[8]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Morris, K. & Copley, P. (2008). "Leporillus conditor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 October 2008. Listed as Vulnerable(VU D2 v3.1)
  2. ^ a b Sturt, C. (1848). Narrative of an Expedition into Central Australia (transcript). 1. London: T & W Boone. p. 120.
  3. ^ a b Musser, G.G.; Carleton, M.D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 894–1531. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  4. ^ a b c d Menkhorst, P.W.; Knight, F. (2011). A field guide to the mammals of Australia (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 208. ISBN 9780195573954.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Ellis, M. (1995). A discussion of the large extinct rodents of Mootwingee National Park, western New South Wales. Australian Zoologist. 30:1-4.
  7. ^ Josephine Flood (2004) Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B Publishing, Marleston p. 206 ISBN 1-876622-50-4
  8. ^ "The Action Plan for Australian Rodents". Department of the Environment. 1 April 1995. Retrieved 24 December 2015.