Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A jungle rat and a surprise
This was the long-tailed rat that kept showing up in our camera traps in the Rakhine Yoma.
As to what it is, it's anyone's guess.
The locals call it atee-phyu-chewet, or white-tailed rat -- though I'd hardly call its tail white.
Looking at the range maps in Charles Francis's Field Guide to Mammals of Thailand and SE Asia tells me it should be the white-footed Indochinese rat (Rattus nitidus).
That's the only rat in the area resembling this one.
So it could be that or something else.
We will never know.
However I do know this. There are undoubtedly more species of rats in this corner of the Rakhine Yoma than indicated by the range maps in the field guide.
Mammal collections from colonial Burma and more modern times have been spotty at best, and the only sure way to identify rats is to collect a few specimens for comparison with voucher specimens in a museum.
Which brings me to this tantalizing photo of another unknown small mammal taken at the same set under a fallen tree.
It looks like a shrew, but we'll never know for sure.
It seems to have two thingies on either side of its tail -- scent glands? Mud balls? Parasites? Testicles?
We'll never know for sure.
Camera traps are not the ideal tool to survey many small rodents and insectivores, but pictures like these make me search the literature, wonder, and dream about a future trip.