Species Myocastor coypus
Nutria Rat Basics
Occasionally referred to as the coypu or swamp rat, the nutria rat (Myocastor coypus) is a big rodent that prefers to live near water. Native to South America, nutria rats have spread to North America as a result of the fur trade. They have established colonies worldwide and are classified as invasive species because of the disruption they cause to the natural ecology.
Nutria rats are rather big rodents that resemble raccoons in size. On the exterior, the nutrias have long, shaggy hair that is yellow or brown in colour. Their undercoat is significantly more attractive than their outer coat, and they are frequently abducted or bred for their underwear, which is used in the fashion industry.
In addition to their scruffy exterior coats, nutria rats are distinguished by their long tails and massive orange front teeth. They are most often watery and possess exceptional swimming ability, as well as webbed hind feet. These rodents like to dwell near rivers and bodies of freshwater like ponds, lakes, and wetlands. Additionally, they are adept diggers and love to dwell underground. While these rodents prey mostly on watery plants and leaves, they have been found to consume certain invertebrates like snails and mussels.
While nutria rats are mostly herbivorous, the quantity of food they consume may have a significant impact on the environment. Each day, these colossal rats may take up to a fourth of their total weight in plant matter!
These rats breed rapidly, attaining sexual maturity at the age of five months. The rats procreate multiple times a year, with each litter yielding between five and seven pups. Throughout her lifespan, a woman may have up to 200 children! Populations may snowball as a result of their fast reproduction, which is why they are such efficient invading species. Escapees from fur farms have the potential to create new colonies in non-native regions, harming vegetation and wetland ecosystems. Additionally, they wreak havoc on flood control systems and transmit illness.
Numerous animals, such as bald eagles, hawks, cottonmouth snakes, garfish, dogs, turtles, and alligators, hunt Nutria rats. However, nutria rats are nocturnal, making them tough to hunt for diurnal species. They will spend the day hiding in their burrows to avoid predators. Furthermore, people slaughter nutria rats for their fur and, on rare occasions, their meat.
Interesting Insights from the Nutria Rat!
These large rodents are regarded as pests and have wreaked havoc on the non-native habitats they have encroached onto. However, in order to be such a successful invading species, they must have a variety of adaptations that serve as wonderful illustrations of biological ideas for us to investigate. Let us examine this more closely.
Nose and Mouth Valves
Nutria rats devote a lot of hours in and around water, swimming and foraging for nourishment. They have developed a range of modifications to survive in this semiaquatic habitat. The existence of valves in their nose and mouth is one of the most intriguing adaptations of these rodents. These valves may shut off when the rats dive and get immersed underwater, preventing water from entering these orifices. Additionally, they are able to maintain a five-minute hold on their breath!
Succesful Invasive Species
Nutria rats are an invasive species that has established many populations in North America and Europe. Humans brought them to these locations by trapping and transporting them to establish farms or mating colonies for the fur trade’s benefit. Animals that are not normally prevalent in a certain location and cause significant harm to the ecology are considered invasive species.
Nutria rats have all the characteristics of invaders. They are omnivores, consuming a wide range of vegetation and plant components, including leaves, roots, and shoots. These rodents have a reasonably lengthy lifespan and a rapid reproduction rate. Additionally, they face a scarcity of predators. While numerous species may feed on nutria rats, their nocturnal nature permits them to avoid daytime predators.
Nutria rats wreak havoc on non-native habitats. Not only do they devastate riverine and wetland habitats, but they have also been reported to cause harm to agricultural crops like rice and sugarcane in specific states. They are capable of wreaking such havoc that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and, at the moment, Fisheries allows anyone with a genuine hunting licence to capture up to five of such animals every day! Which indicates exactly how serious the issue is.
Humans are responsible for the global proliferation of various exotic species! For example, humans brought zebra mussels to the Great Lakes where they have spread like wildfire, resulting in the extinction of native pearly mussels. In the United States, other invasive species include Japanese knotweed, grass, Asian carp, and lionfish.
Nutria rats devote a large amount of time in water, and many adaptations enable them to live in a semiaquatic environment. The capacity of these rodents to nourish their offspring when floating in the water is one of the most remarkable adaptations.
Like other animals, females have mammary glands that enable them to provide milk for their young. Nutria rats possess four pairs of mammary glands located on each side of the body rather than on the abdomen. While the mother is floating, the young may eat with their snouts above the water’s surface.