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Ord's kangaroo rat

ord's kangaroo rat, ord's kangaroo rat distribution
Ord's kangaroo rat Dipodomys ordii is a kangaroo rat native to western North America, specifically the Great Plains and the Great Basin, with its range extending from extreme southern Canada to central Mexico23

Ord's kangaroo rat has a fifth toe on its hind feet, which distinguishes it from Dipodomys elator It is bicolored with gold-brown dorsal hair and a white stomach It has a long tail with a bushy tip, and is dark dorsally and ventrally with a white lateral stripe Its hind feet are modified for jumping, and exceed 35 mm in length, and its total length exceeds 240 mm Its tail is usually less than 160 mm, distinguishing it from D elator which exceeds 160 mm

Though a common species in the United States, the population in Canada is considered endangered4


  • 1 Taxonomy
  • 2 Distribution
  • 3 Plant communities
  • 4 Cover requirements
  • 5 Lifecycle
  • 6 Food habits
  • 7 Predators
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


The currently accepted scientific name for Ord's kangaroo rat is Dipodomys ordii Woodhouse It belongs to the family Heteromyidae, kangaroo rats and mice Hall5 listed 35 subspecies, but Kennedy and Schnell reported many of these subspecies are probably not legitimate since they were based on the assumption of little sexual dimorphism in the species It has now been established that sexual dimorphism within the taxon is considerable6


Ord's kangaroo rat ranges from southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan to southern Hidalgo, Mexico, and from central Oregon and eastern California east to central Kansas and Oklahoma7

Ord's kangaroo rats occur mainly in semiarid, open habitats In Nevada, they were trapped in desert scrub and gravelly soil, flat pebble desert, and washes8 In Utah, Ord's kangaroo rats have an affinity for open shrublands and grasslands on sandy soils7 In southeastern Idaho, big sagebrush/crested wheatgrass Agropyron cristatum range, most Ord's kangaroo rat captures occurred on disturbed sites or areas of sparse cover: Russian thistle Salsola kali, cheatgrass Bromus tectorum, and green rabbitbrush Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, followed by disturbed areas seeded to crested wheatgrass, then undisturbed big sagebrush9 In western South Dakota, Ord's kangaroo rats are associated with black-tailed prairie dog Cynomys ludovicianus towns10 In Wyoming, Ord's kangaroo rats are abundant in sand dune communities where vegetation is greater than 10 inches 25 cm tall and bare soil exceeds 40%7 In Colorado, Ord's kangaroo rats were primarily captured in open areas with firm soil Firm or lightly compacted soils are needed for burrow construction; highly compacted soils are too hard for them to dig11 In areas of desert pavement or tough clay soils in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, Ord's kangaroo rats are confined to pockets of windblown sand and alluvial soils along arroyos12

Strong intraspecific competition and little interspecific competition occurs among Dipodomys species13 In New Mexico, where Ord's kangaroo rats are sympatric with Merriam's kangaroo rats D merriamii, Ord's kangaroo rats were mostly captured in grassy microhabitats, and Merriam's kangaroo rats were captured more often around creosotebush13 Herbicide defoliation of shrubs for rangeland improvement reduced live canopy cover of creosotebush and resulted in an increase in bush muhly Muhlenbergia porteri After treatment, Ord's kangaroo rats replaced Merriam's kangaroo rats as the dominant rodent This was suggested to be due to the change in habitat structure to open grass14

Removal experiments to establish single species populations of kangaroo rats were unsuccessful, since many kangaroo rats are transient and quickly occupy vacated habitats13 Only one adult occupies a given burrow system, except for a brief period during breeding activity Little territoriality occurs above ground except near burrow entrances, which are defended8

In New Mexico, Ord's kangaroo rat annual home ranges in mesquite averaged 335 acres 136 ha7 In Nevada sagebrush/grassland, Ord's kangaroo rat home ranges were estimated as 153 acres 062 ha by the circular method and 106 acres 043 ha by the principal component method Home range movements increased through spring and again in late fall and early winter No significant difference was found between male and female Ord's kangaroo rat home ranges; however, female home ranges decreased during reproductive periods15 Recapture data for Ord's kangaroo rats in Arizona indicated they do not travel far from the home range; most Ord's kangaroo rats were recaptured within 165 ft 50 m of the original capture site Data on the lifetime movements of individuals indicated most were recaptured within 330 feet 100 m of the original capture site16

In sagebrush in the Great Basin, Ord's kangaroo rats reach an average density of 113 rats per 10 ha17 In intermountain salt-desert shrublands, the population density averaged 28 individuals per 10 ha in shadscale communities and 135 individuals per 10 ha in black greasewood Sarcobatus vermiculatus communities18

Plant communitiesedit

Ord's kangaroo rats occur in communities on sandy soils, including semiarid grasslands, mixed-grass prairie, shrub- and scrublands, and pinyon Pinus spp-juniper Juniperus spp woodlands7 In Canada, They are confined to open, sandy areas with sparse covers of sagebrush Artemisia spp, snowberry Symphoricarpos spp, rose Rosa spp, creeping juniper J horizontalis and buffaloberry Shepherdia spp; the distribution of Ord's kangaroo rats appears to be closely associated with that of lanceleaved breadroot Psoralea lanceolata19 In Oregon, Ord's kangaroo rats occur in big sagebrush A tridentata, western juniper J occidentalis, and greasewood Sarcobatus spp communities In Idaho, they are most abundant in juniper woodlands with rabbitbrush Chrysothamnus spp and winterfat Krascheninnikovia lanata in the understory,7 but also occur on shadscale Atriplex confertifolia range20 In Utah, Ord's kangaroo rats have an affinity for sagebrush, pinyon-juniper, and saltbush Atriplex spp communities7 In Nevada, Ord's kangaroo rats are associated with big sagebrush communities21 In Colorado, Ord's kangaroo rats comprised 19% of small mammal captures in pinyon-juniper forest, scattered pinyon-juniper, and pinyon-juniper in canyon habitats11 In New Mexico, Ord's kangaroo rats are found in yucca Yucca spp, oak Quercus spp, mesquite Prosopis spp, saltbush, and creosotebush Larrea tridentata communities722 They are particularly abundant in mesquite sand dunes23 In Texas, Ord's kangaroo rats occur in honey mesquite P glandulosa, sand sagebrush Artemisia filifolia, yucca, sand shinnery oak Q havardii, and broom snakeweed Gutierrezia sarothrae communities7 In southwestern Kansas, Ord's kangaroo rats are characteristic residents of sand sagebrush prairie24

Cover requirementsedit

Even in shrub-dominated communities, heteromyids including Ord's kangaroo rat tend to concentrate their activity in open areas between shrubs25

Ord's kangaroo rats are poor diggers because of their weak forelegs and slender claws They dig shallow burrows in loose sand in the sides of natural sand dunes, riverbanks, or road cuts The one central burrow is surrounded by trails to feeding areas19 The burrows have 3-in-diameter 76-cm-dia openings Small mounds are usually formed outside the entrance to the burrow26 The burrow opening is usually plugged with soil during the day to maintain temperature and humidity within tolerable levels727 They scoop out small, shallow depressions to be used as dusting spots26


Ord's kangaroo rat

Ord's kangaroo rats are nocturnal, and spend their days in deep burrows26 Males are usually more abundant and active than females Activity increases under cloud cover, particularly in winter7 Ord's kangaroo rats are active year-round in Texas, but further north, they are seldom seen above ground in cold weather26

Ord's kangaroo rat breeding season varies with subspecies and area Usually, one or two peak breeding seasons occur per year, and in many areas, some breeding activity occurs year-round728 The size of ovaries is significantly positively correlated with temperature7 The average length of the breeding period is 68 months In Texas, males are fertile all year, with peak reproductive activity occurring between August and March Higher reproductive rates are associated with increased precipitation and food supply and decreased population density In a favorable growing season, most females breed at least twice a year, but when population density increased, females did not breed until November though growing conditions and food supplies were favorable29 In Arizona, the lowest proportion of males in breeding condition about 60% of the male population occurred in January and September–October The lowest number of females in breeding condition occurred in November, but at least a few females were breeding at that time30 In Oklahoma, the two peaks in breeding activity are August–September and December through March31 In many areas, the onset of breeding activity follows a period of rainfall the previous month7

Gestation lasts 28 to 32 days; one to six embryos are usually found In captivity, the maximum litter size was six young7 The maximum number of litters produced per year by a captive female was five, the maximum number of litters per lifetime was 9, and the maximum number of young per female's lifetime was 38 The longest-lived Ord's kangaroo rat in captivity is a wild caught female who lived until 9 yr 1 months Brown and Zeng calculated an annual death rate of 035 for all age classes16

Food habitsedit

Ord's kangaroo rats are primarily granivorous and herbivorous They consume a variety of foods, but most commonly eat the seeds of grasses and forbs, green vegetation, and dry vegetation They occasionally consume animal material, mostly arthropods In Colorado, seeds comprised 74% of their diets, forbs 13%, grasses and sedges 5%, arthropods 4%, and fungi and mosses 2%7

In southeastern Idaho big sagebrush/crested wheatgrass range, Ord's kangaroo rats consumed in order of proportion pollen, arthropods, plant parts Asteraceae and crested wheatgrass seeds9 A study of Ord's kangaroo rat foods in Texas found the primary foods consumed included seeds of sand paspalum Paspalum stramineum, honey mesquite, sand bluestem Andropogon gerardii var paucipilus, common ragweed Ambrosia artemisiifolia, and rose-ring gaillardia Gaillardia pulchella32 In Texas, seeds of creosotebush, gramas Bouteloua spp and dropseeds Sporobolus spp formed the major portion of Ord's kangaroo rat diets12 Seeds of mesquite, Russian-thistle, sunflowers Helianthus spp, and sandbur Cenchrus spp are also major dietary items26

Harvested seeds are transported in cheek pouches to burrows and consumed or cached there Ord's kangaroo rats also cache seed in scattered shallow holes; this activity sometimes results in seedling emergence They are easily able to retrieve shallowly buried seeds A single Ord's kangaroo rat may make tens to hundreds of caches, each with tens to hundreds of seeds33

Kangaroo rats are physiologically adapted to arid environments Most water is obtained from seeds and succulent plants They drink water when it is available, but apparently do not require free water1934


In the Great Basin sagebrush, intermountain sagebrush steppe, and intermountain salt desert shrublands, potential predators of Ord's kangaroo rats include coyotes Canis latrans, kit fox Vulpes velox, bobcats Lynx rufus, badgers Taxidea taxus, long-eared owls Asio otus, short-eared owls Asio flammeus, great horned owls Bubo virginianus, burrowing owls Athene cunicularia, hawks Buteonidae and Falconidae, rattlesnakes Crotalus spp, and gopher snakes Pituophis melanoleucus171835 In Idaho, the remains of Ord's kangaroo rats were found in up to 25% of prairie falcon Falco mexicanus nests The three-year average frequency of Ord's kangaroo rat remains in prairie falcon nests was 4%36


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "Dipodomys ordii"

  1. ^ Linzey, AV & Timm, R 2008 "Dipodomys ordii" IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature Retrieved 14 January 2009 
  2. ^ Patton, JL 2005 "Family Heteromyidae" In Wilson, DE; Reeder, DM Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed Johns Hopkins University Press p 847 ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 OCLC 62265494 
  3. ^ Teh, Poh-lin 2001 "ADW : Dipodomys ordii : Information" Animal Diversity Web University of Michigan Retrieved 2007-08-15 
  4. ^ "Species at Risk - Ord's Kangaroo Rat" Environment Canada 2006-05-08 Retrieved 2007-08-15 
  5. ^ Hall, E Raymond 1981 The mammals of North America 2nd ed Vol 2 New York: John Wiley and Sons
  6. ^ Kennedy, Michael L; Schnell, Gary D 1978 "Geographic variation and sexual dimorphism in Ord's kangaroo rat, Dipodomys ordii" Journal of Mammalogy 59 1: 45–59 doi:102307/1379874 JSTOR 1379874 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Garrison, Tom E; Best, Troy L 1990 "Dipodomys ordii" PDF Mammalian Species 353 353: 1–10 doi:102307/3504290 
  8. ^ a b Eisenberg, John Frederick 1963 The behavior of heteromyid rodents University of California Publ in Zoology: Vol 69 Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
  9. ^ a b Koehler, David K; Anderson, Stanley H 1991 "Habitat use & food selection of small mammals near a sagebrush/crested wheatgrass interface in southeastern Idaho" Great Basin Naturalist 51 3: 249–255 
  10. ^ Sharps, Jon C; Uresk, Daniel W 1990 "Ecological review of black-tailed prairie dogs and associated species in western South Dakota" PDF Great Basin Naturalist 50 4: 339–344 
  11. ^ a b Ribble, David O; Samson, Fred B 1987 "Microhabitat associations of small mammals in southeastern Colorado, with special emphasis on Peromyscus Rodentia" Southwestern Naturalist 32 3: 291–303 doi:102307/3671446 JSTOR 3671446 
  12. ^ a b Schmidly, David J 1977 The mammals of Trans-Pecos Texas: including Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park College Station, TX: Texas A&M University
  13. ^ a b c Schroder, Gene D; Rosenzweig, Michael L 1975 "Perturbation analysis of competition and overlap in habitat utilization between Dipodomys ordii and Dipodomys merriami" Oecologia 19: 9–28 doi:101007/BF00377586 JSTOR 4215091 
  14. ^ Whitford, Walter G; Dick-Peddie, Scott; Walters, David; Ludwig, John A 1978 "Effects of shrub defoliation on grass cover and rodent species in a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem" Journal of Arid Environments 1: 237–242 
  15. ^ O'Farrell, Michael J 1978 "Home range dynamics of rodents in a sagebrush community" Journal of Mammalogy 59 4: 657–668 doi:102307/1380131 JSTOR 1380131 
  16. ^ a b Brown, James H; Zeng, Zongyong 1989 "Comparative population ecology of eleven species of rodents in the Chihuahuan Desert" Ecology 70 5: 1507–1525 doi:102307/1938209 JSTOR 1938209 
  17. ^ a b West, N E 1983 Great Basin-Colorado plateau sagebrush semi-desert In: Temperate deserts and semi-deserts Amsterdam; Oxford; New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company: 331–349 Goodall, David W, ed in chief; Ecosystems of the world; vol 5
  18. ^ a b West, Neil E 1983 Intermountain salt-desert shrubland In: West, Neil E, ed Temperate deserts and semi-deserts Amsterdam; Oxford; New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company; 1983: 375–397 Goodall, David W, ed in chief; Ecosystems of the world; vol 5
  19. ^ a b c Banfield, A W F 1974 The mammals of Canada Toronto: University of Toronto Press
  20. ^ Groves, Craig R; Steenhof, Karen 1988 "Responses of small mammals and vegetation to wildfire in shadscale communities of southwestern Idaho" Northwest Science 62 5: 205–210 
  21. ^ Welch, Bruce L; McArthur, E Durant 1985 Big sagebrush--its taxonomy, origin, distribution and utility In: Fisser, Herbert G, ed Wyoming shrublands: Proceedings, 14th Wyoming shrub ecology workshop; 1985 May 29–30; Rock Springs, WY Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Department of Range Management, Wyoming Shrub Ecology Workshop: 3–19
  22. ^ Mares, M A; Hulse, A C 1977 Patterns of some vertebrate communities in creosote bush deserts In: Mabry, T J; Hunziker, J H; DiFeo, D R, Jr, eds Creosote bush: Biology and chemistry of Larrea in New World deserts US/IBP Synthesis Series 6 Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc: 209–226
  23. ^ Campbell, R S 1929 "Vegetative succession in the Prosopis sand dunes of southern New Mexico" Ecology 10 4: 392–398 doi:102307/1931147 JSTOR 1931147 
  24. ^ Sexson, Mark L 1983 Destruction of sandsage prairie in southwest Kansas In: Proceedings, 7th North American prairie conference; 1980 August 4–6; Springfield, MO Columbia, MO: University of Missouri: 113–115
  25. ^ Price, M V; Brown, J H 1983 "Patterns of morphology and resource use in North American desert rodent communities" Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs 7: 117–134 
  26. ^ a b c d e Whitaker, John O, Jr 1980 National Audubon Society field guide to North American mammals New York: Alfred A Knopf, Inc
  27. ^ Lechleitner, R R 1969 Wild mammals of Colorado Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company
  28. ^ Smith, H Duane; Jorgensen, Clive D 1975 Reproductive biology of North American desert rodents In: Prakash, I; Ghosh, P K, eds Rodents in desert environments Monographiae Biologicae Vol 28 The Hague, Netherlands: Dr W Junk: 305-330
  29. ^ McCulloch, C Y; Inglis, J M 1961 "Breeding periods of the ord kangaroo rat" Journal of Mammalogy 42 3: 337–344 doi:102307/1377029 JSTOR 1377029 
  30. ^ Brown, J H; Heske, E J 1990 Translated by a Keystone Rodent Guild "Control of a Desert-Grassland" Science 250 4988: 1705–7 doi:101126/science25049881705 PMID 17734708 
  31. ^ Hoditschek, Barbara; Best, Troy L 1983 "Reproductive biology of Ord's kangaroo rat Dipodomys ordii in Oklahoma" Journal of Mammalogy 64 1: 121–127 doi:102307/1380757 JSTOR 1380757 
  32. ^ Alcoze, Thomas M; Zimmerman, Earl G 1973 "Food habits and dietary overlap of two heteromyid rodents from the mesquite plains of Texas" Journal of Mammalogy 54 4: 900–908 doi:102307/1379084 JSTOR 1379084 
  33. ^ Longland, William S 1995 Desert rodents in disturbed shrub communities and their effects on plant recruitment In: Roundy, Bruce A; McArthur, E Durant; Haley, Jennifer S; Mann, David K, compilers Proceedings: wildland shrub and arid land restoration symposium; 1993 October 19–21; Las Vegas, NV Gen Tech Rep INT-GTR-315 Ogden, UT: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 209–215
  34. ^ Mares, Michael A 1983 "Desert rodent adaptation and community structure Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs" 7: 30–43 
  35. ^ West, N E 1983 Western Intermountain sagebrush steppe In: Temperate deserts and semi-deserts Amsterdam; Oxford; New York: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company 352–374 Goodall, David W, ed in chief; Ecosystems of the world; vol 5
  36. ^ Ogden, Verland T; Hornocker, Maurice G 1977 "Nesting density and success of prairie falcons in southwestern Idaho" Journal of Wildlife Management 41 1: 1–11 doi:102307/3800084 JSTOR 3800084 

External linksedit

  • View the kangaroo rat genome in Ensembl
  • View the dipOrd1 genome assembly in the UCSC Genome Browser

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