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Kangaroo rats (genus Dipodomys) are nocturnal rodents. Despite their name, they have nothing to do with kangaroos. They just share similar jumping styles with the famous marsupials from Down Under. Kangaroo rats, for the most part, reside inside of burrows they construct on their own.
Kangaroo Rat Basics
The kangaroo rat world consists of approximately 22 confirmed species, all of which come from North America. The mid-sized rodents possess a handful of standout physical characteristics, including big eyes and big heads. Kangaroo rats, across the board, usually weigh between 1.2 and 6.3 ounces. Their smooth coats appear in colors such as deep brown, brownish-yellow and beige. The fur on the lower portions of their bodies, however, is pale. Kangaroo rats inhabit deserts and dry grasslands alike. They are, for the most part, proficient swimmers.
Kangaroo rat "homes" exist in burrow form. They spend their days resting in burrows in the dirt. At night, they exit their burrows to search for food. Food-wise, kangaroo rats are big on fruit, buds, stems and seeds. They favor seeds, specifically grass seeds. Kangaroo rats occasionally consume tiny insects, too. Water consumption is uncommon for them, as they generally extract necessary hydration via their meals.
How They Build Their Homes
Kangaroo rats build their burrow homes through digging in dirt that's either smooth or sandy in texture. They have a couple of helpful physical assets that enable them to easily dig their burrows, specifically their sturdy, powerful claws and short front limbs. Kangaroo rats' burrows are typically situated on subtle inclines, often amidst big shrubs. Significant depth is a major component in burrows for kangaroo rats, as it enables them to gain relief from uncomfortable scorching daytime heat. Some kangaroo rats dig burrows out from large heaps of dirt, while others do so underground.
Kangaroo rats' burrows aren't only for sleeping purposes. The tunnels they establish are often rather detailed, with distinct divisions for relaxing and stashing away future meals. The desire to save food is intense in them. Kangaroo rats collect seeds in abundance, place them inside pockets within their mouths and promptly tuck them away in their burrows. Their burrows are diverse size-wise, as kangaroo rats of different species appear in different sizes, too. Some of their burrows are comparatively massive, with diameters that exceed 12 feet and heights of 3 feet plus.
- California Department of Pesticide Regulation: Kangaroo Rats
- U.S. National Park Service: Kangaroo Rat
- Vertebrate Pest Control Research Advisory Committee: Kangaroo Rats
- CRC Handbook of Census Methods for Terrestrial Vertebrates; David E. Davis
- Mammal Tracks & Sign; Mark Elbroch
- Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage; Scott E. Hygnstrom
- Adaptation; Alvin Silverstein et al.
- California Department of Pesticide Regulation: Kangaroo Rat Burrows
- Rats, Bats and Xenarthrans; John P. Rafferty
- A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in Western America; James C. Halfpenny
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images