The Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus), goes by a long list of alternate names, including; brown rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat and wharf rat. Despite the numerous names, it is most commonly know simply as rat. The rat exists as a highly adaptable species, well evolved to survive in a wide variety of rural and urban environments.
Rats exist on all continents except Antarctica, thriving in some of the most extreme environments on earth and making it one of the most wide spread mammal species on the planet. Strangely, the Norway rat did not originate in Norway but rather naturalists believe it originally came from China, rapidly distributing itself throughout the world by stowing away in cargo ships.
One of the largest muroids, or members of the “rodent” family, rats weigh approximately 10 ounces with brown or dark grey bodies averaging 10 inches in length. Stories of rats exceeding the size of house cats, likely arrive from wild exaggeration or misidentification.
Highly prolific, rats breed up to five times a year, producing litters ranging in size from 1-14 young. Underground burrows serve as nurseries, as well as providing shelter from the weather, protection from predators and food storage. Ninety-five percent of these young will succumb to predators, sickness and starvation in their first year. Those individuals fortunate enough to avoid these unfortunate ends live to approximately 3 years of age.
While rats have poor vision, they do posse’s exceptional hearing and a highly developed sense of smell. These use these to their advantage when trying to locate food and find prey, in areas that contain little to no visible light.
Rats consume both meat and vegetables (omnivorous) and have been observed consuming everything from fruits and grains to fish, clams, insects and even small birds.
As with other pack animals like wolves, rats exist in a social hierarchy with each individual knowing its place within the structure of the pack. When food supplies dwindle or living spaces become crowded, rats lower in social order will be killed by alphas within the group.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is another name for the Norway rat?
2. What is the distribution of the Norway rat?
3. From what are of the world did the Norway rat originate?
4. How much does a Norway rat weigh?
5. What percentage of Norway rats die during their first year of birth?
6. How long does a Norway rat live?
7. What do rats eat?
8. Are Norway rats pack animals?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The Norway rat is also known by the names, brown rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat and wharf rat.
2. Rats exist on all continents except Antarctica.
3. Naturalists believe the Norway rat originally came from China.
4. The Norway rat weighs approximately 10 ounces.
5. Ninety-five percent of these young will succumb to predators, sickness and starvation in their first year.
6. Norway rats live to approximately 3 years of age.
7. Norway rats consume both meat and vegetables (omnivorous) and have been observed consuming everything from fruits and grains to fish, clams, insects and even small birds.
8. Yes, Norway rats exist in a social hierarchy with each individual knowing its place within the structure of the pack.
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