Species Rattus rattus
Black Rat Basics
The black rat (Rattus rattus) is a tiny rodent with a long tail. It looks like a conventional rat and may be found all over the globe. The ship rat, roof rat, or house rat is another name for it, and it’s a problem for farmers, although some people keep it as a pet.
Black rats have a body length of 5.0-7.2 in (12.7–18.3 cm), excluding their tails, which are roughly the same length, if not more. Although a few lighter colour variants occur, most specimens measure 2.6-8.1 oz (75-230 g) and are dark brown or black in hue. Its fur is unkempt, and the bottom of its body is usually a lighter colour than the rest of its body.
The black rat’s origins are unknown. Its origins are most likely in Malaysia, with diversification taking place after it reaches India. During the colonial period, it was transported all over the globe after it arrived in Europe. Its current range is worldwide, with populations occurring in both natural habitats and human-developed places all over the globe, especially in warmer climes.
It is not as common as its bigger relative, the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), which, due to its burrowing abilities, has also been more successful in human-developed regions. The black rat prefers to dwell in trees and is arboreal. As a result, it was more effective in adapting to human-developed environments when thatched roofs and wood structures were more popular than they are now, when concrete and brick construction techniques have largely supplanted them across the globe.
Black Rat Diet and Predators
Black rats are omnivores who devour a diverse diet. In reality, rats will consume almost everything. Rats usually consume parts of the plant, including leaves and stems, as well as fruits and nuts. In addition to fungi, they devour a variety of other small organisms, such as insect pests and bird eggs.
They will eat foodstuffs left out for domestic pets as well as garbage and various kitchen wastes in human-developed countries, displaying the universal diet that has allowed them to become so widespread in so many parts of the world. They feed on wheat, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, as well as numerous crops, making them well-known agricultural pests.
Due to its vast spread, the black rat provides primarily a source of nutrition for several different species. In real life situations, weasels and other larger rodents often kill rats and their progeny. The black rat would be preyed upon by bobcats, foxes, coyotes, and various carnivores. In human-developed places, they are frequently murdered by cats and owls, who use the large clearing to locate their prey.
In contrast, the black rat is agile and an accomplished climber. Additionally, it possesses an exceptional hearing capacity. Although the arrival of additional hunters in some of the places where black rats initially originated, this species has invaded a large portion of the world due to its exceptional ability to evade predation in the vast majority of scenarios.
Black Rat Breeding
Black rats build homes in trees and even underground. Male black rats will expand their home areas in search of partners during the mating season. Females have a 21-day gestation period, and their young are self-sufficient within weeks. In the wild, most rats attain sexual maturity within 3-5 months and survive for just 12–18 months. Females will give birth to roughly six litters of 7-8 pups throughout this period. With such a short life cycle and very prolific reproductive behaviour, it’s easy to understand how the black rat has colonised so many different ecosystems all over the world.
Fun Facts about Black Rat!
Black rats may be found almost everywhere. They’ve been linked to some of the worst human disease outbreaks in history, but they’re also helping to restore biodiversity in previously damaged environments throughout the planet in certain situations.
The Green Rat
Not all black rats are the same colour. Although many of them are brown, they should not be confused with the brown rat, which is a distinct species with its own set of features and behaviours. Certain black rats may have white fur. Even stranger, in the 1920s, selective breeding operations in England resulted in the production of several colour morphs, including a green version.
The Passive Traveler
The black rat, like other rat and rodent species, is one of the world’s most widely distributed animals. Rats are believed to have travelled throughout the globe, mostly via hitching rides aboard ships, where they dwelt. Many creatures and species have intriguing dispersion mechanisms, such as plants that disperse their seeds using the wind. Rats made their way throughout the earth nearly as quietly as plants, although they were much more sophisticated and aware. Since their serendipitous initial voyages, rats have established themselves in both natural and man-made ecosystems across the globe, becoming pests and posing a danger to local species in many situations.
The Great Invader
While the black rat’s capacity to travel throughout the globe may seem to be a success story, this is not always the case when other species in the environments where it originated are examined. These rats, for example, graze on seedlings of numerous plants in the north of New Zealand. This has the potential to dramatically alter forest succession and have a negative influence on these ecosystems. In many situations, their generalist feeding style enables them to outcompete native species for resources, resulting in population declines.
However, the emergence of the black rat has probably had good effects in certain circumstances. Black rats, for example, have flourished in areas where native species have been extirpated owing to human disturbance. They have become vectors for the spores of several fungi that they feed on in Australia, for example. Native species have traditionally served this duty. Biodiversity would suffer if this passive dispersion did not occur. Ironically, this implies that removing the insect may, in certain cases, cause more damage than benefit.
A Vector of Disease
Rats carry a variety of germs with them as they cross the globe, including dangerous viral and bacterial illnesses. This is because of the blood’s capacity to retain a large number of pathogenic microorganisms.
These might even be found within other species that live on the rats, such as fleas. The black rat is most likely to blame for the spread of Yersinia pestis, a flea-borne bacterium that caused the Black Death and the Plague of Justinian.