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What Is a Field Rat?

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While no single species is simply called a field rat, the name describe at least four species: the rice field rat (Rattus argentiventer), the lesser rice field rat (R. losea), the pale field rat (R. tunneyi) and Ranjini’s field rat (R. ranjiniae). While other rats may spend some time in open plains, these species are the only ones who consistently nest and make their homes in fields.

Rice Field Rat

Rice field rats can be found throughout southeast Asia, primarily in rice paddies and cultivated grasslands. They have soft, yellow-brown and black fur, with gray bellies and medium-brown tails. Measuring roughly 12 to 16 inches, including their 6 to 8 inch tails, these rats are of medium size. They live in large groups with strict hierarchies; individuals will actively defend their pack's territory. As omnivores, they eat a range of seeds, insects, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Lesser Rice Field Rat

Measuring an average of just 5 inches, not including their tails, lesser rice field rats have wooly fur ranging in color from dark to dusky brown, depending on the exact area in which they live. They can be found in parts of China, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. As their name suggests, these rats live in rice fields, but they also make their homes in other cultivated fields, mangroves, grassland and scrubland.

Pale Field Rat

Pale field rats are an Australian species who live in the north of the country and along Queensland's east coast. On average, their bodies measure 5 1/2 inches and tails roughly 4 3/4 inches. Their pelage is yellow-brown above and paler underneath. These gentle creatures are primarily nocturnal. They can be found in grassy open forests, swampland, cane fields, pine plantations and cultivated pasture, where they create tunnels through dense grass to help avoid predation.

Ranjini’s Field Rat

Sometimes also known as Kerala rats, Ranjini's field rats are the least common of all field rats, listed as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They're found only in the Kerala area of Indi, and probably have a range totaling not much more 300 square miles, though it's severely fragmented. Members of this species are nocturnal and fossorial, meaning they're active at night, and dig burrows or spend time underground. They're known to have large claws compared with their body size, which helps them to dig.