Saturday, April 3, 2010

Morro Bay kangaroo rat

The Morro Bay kangaroo rat (Dipodomys heermanni morroensis) is a subspecies of Heermann's kangaroo rat, named after physician and naturalist Adolphus Lewis Heermann (1827-1865). This rodent is endemic to areas along the Pacific Coast in San Luis Obispo County, California [1]. Montaña de Oro State Park near Los Osos is a good place to see the kangaroo rat, although it is endagered and it living range today is very limited, as explained on an information board (showing photos by Glenn R. Stewart) in the State Park:
The coastal dune scrub plant community within the Morro Dunes Natural Preserve provides critical habitat for the endangered Morro Bay kangaroo rat. This species, once common throughout the South Bay region, is now limited to a small area south of Los Osos. The degradation of suitable habitat has led to the species decline.

The Morro Bay kangaroo rat is the smallest of nine subspecies of Heermann's kangaroo rat [2]. It is brown-colored, typically darker brown than other subspecies. It bears an incomplete, white hip stripe, and a black stripe across its nose. Its tail with a about 7 inch (17.5 cm) is much longer than its head and body, together measuring 4 to 5 inch (10-13 cm).
If you don't succeed in spotting any kangaroo rats jumping around, you may still see hints of their “engineering” activity. Kangaroo rats build tunnel systems in soft or sandy soil, where they live, breed and store food. They are primarily seed eaters.

[1] U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile: Morro Bay kangaroo rat (Dipodomys heermanni morroensis).
[2] Comparison of different Kangaroo Rats (
Dipodomys sp.).
[3] Justin Congdon and Aryan Roest: Status of the Endangered Morro Bay Kangaroo Rat. Journal of Mammalogy August 1975, 56 (3), pp. 679-683. Abstract.

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