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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 7.3 years (captivity)
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Conservation Status

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Water rats are widespread and abundant, they are not threatened.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Benefits

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Active burrowers, H. chrysogaster individuals have damaged channel banks and water-control structures. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Benefits

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Hydromys chrysogaster are able to withstand pollution in cities and even thrive there. They are often observed by humans because they are sometimes active during the day. Farmers benefit from H. chrysogaster because they often destroy yabbies, other small rodents, which destroy irrigation systems. By eating pond snails, water rats also protect livestock from the parasites that are transmitted through snails. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Associations

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Water rats are abundant and are an important prey base for many small to medium-sized predators. Their burrowing and foraging activities probably also help in the redistribution of nutrients in systems.

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Hydromys chrysogaster feeds mainly on crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, although they have been observed feeding on aquatic insects, frogs, house mice, the eggs and young of waterfowl, poultry, and turtles, and even attacking bats. Hydromys chrysogaster have also been observed eating cane toads, an introduced species that is toxic to many other predators. They often have a favorite feeding platform on which they collect piles of food before eating it. Hoarding food in the nest site is also common. Mussels are opened by their strong incisors.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore )

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Distribution

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Hydromys chrysogaster dwells in freshwater lakes and rivers throughout Australia and Tasmania and on offshore islands. They are also found on New Guinea. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Habitat

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Hydromys chrysogaster individuals live mainly near permanent fresh water. They live on land but depend on the water for food. Also present along the coastline, H. chrysogaster do not need completely fresh water. They can also survive in areas where rivers and streams have become polluted or are brackish. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural ; riparian ; estuarine

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Life Expectancy

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Longevity in water rats is unknown.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
7.3 years.

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Morphology

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About the size of a rabbit, H. chrysogaster is well adapted for water. The toes are webbed on front and hind feet, which are broad and act as paddles. Hydromys chrysogaster has numerous whiskers at the end of a long, blunt muzzle. The head is flat with small ears and eyes. The most notable characteristic is the water rat’s thick white tipped tail. Hydromys chrysogaster varies in color from a brown black to gray, making them somewhat cryptic in their surroundings. Some are uniform in color, while others have lighter undersides. The one unifying feature is the white tipped tail. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 850 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 2.97 W.

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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Associations

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Eagles, buzzards and kites prey on water rats, as well as snakes and small mammalian carnivores. Water rats mainly escape predation by escaping to burrows or into the water. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

Known Predators:

  • eagles (Accipitridae)
  • buzzards (Accipitridae)
  • kites (Accipitridae)
  • snakes (Serpentes)
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Lundrigan, B. and K. Pfotenhauer 2003. "Hydromys chrysogaster" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hydromys_chrysogaster.html
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Reproduction

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Little is known of the mating system of water rats.

Water rats breed in the spring and summer. Females have an estrous cycle of approximately eleven days. The gestation period is about 35 days. Females can enter estrus immediately after giving birth, so litters can be produced only 35 days apart. Usually, water rats have litters of four to five young. During a good breeding season, females can have two or three litters.

At birth, the young are blind. They are usually lighter in color than the adults, but already have the characteristic white tipped tail and partially webbed feet. The young grow quickly and are usually independent after about 35 days. However, after this initial growth, maturity to adulthood takes longer. Breeding does not occur until the young are at least one year old and full size is attained at about two years of age. (Watts and Aslin, 1981)

Breeding season: Breeding occurs during spring and summer.

Range number of offspring: 8 to 15.

Average gestation period: 35 days.

Average weaning age: 35 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average birth mass: 24.39 g.

Average gestation period: 36 days.

Average number of offspring: 3.8.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male:
135 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female:
163 days.

Young are born helpless and are cared for by their mother in her nest burrow until they are weaned, at about 35 days old.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

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wwf - Rakali

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WWF-Australia and the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife are conducting a Rakali Community Survey to learn more about the distribution of the elusive rakali or Australian water-rat in Western Australia.

wwf - Rakali

provided by EOL authors

WWF-Australia and the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife are conducting a Rakali Community Survey to learn more about the distribution of the elusive rakali or Australian water-rat in Western Australia.

Rakali

provided by wikipedia EN

The rakali, Hydromys chrysogaster, also known as the rabe or water-rat, is an Australian native rodent first described in 1804.[2] The change to the aboriginal name Rakali was intended to foster a positive public attitude by Environment Australia.[3] The Gunwinggu (Kunwinjku) people of western Arnhem Land call this animal Yirrku.[4]

One of four described species in the genus Hydromys, it is the only one with a range extending beyond Papua New Guinea and Indonesian West Papua. Having adapted to and colonised a unique niche of a semiaquatic and nocturnal lifestyle,[5] this species lives in burrows on the banks of rivers, lakes and estuaries and feeds on aquatic insects, fish, crustaceans, mussels, snails, frogs, birds' eggs and water birds. Rakali have a body 231–370 millimetres (9.1–14.6 in) in length, weigh, 340–1,275 grams (0.750–2.811 lb) and have a thick tail measuring around 242–345 millimetres (9.5–13.6 in). Females are generally smaller than males but tail lengths are normally the same. They have partially webbed hind legs, waterproof fur, a flattened head, a long blunt nose, many whiskers and small ears and eyes. The body is streamlined with a skull that is large, flat and elongated, with two molars on the upper and lower jaw, similar to the water mouse. They are black to brown in colour with an orange to white belly, and dark tail with a white tip.[5]

Hunted for their soft fur and considered a nuisance animal, numbers were under threat until a protection order in 1938.[6] They were still under destruction permits from 1938 to 1957 due to alleged destruction of irrigation banks and destruction of fishing nets.[7] Additionally from 1957 to 1967 a number of licensed seasons were also held for this reason.[8][9]

Common names

Until the 1980s, this species was commonly known as "water-rat", but during the 1990s there was a push for such descriptive English common names to be replaced with indigenous names. In 1995, the Australian Nature Conservation Agency released a document in which the following indigenous names were recorded for H. chrysogaster. They recommended that "rakali" be adopted as the common name,[10] and the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage has taken up this suggestion. Both common names are now widespread.

Taxonomy and description

 src=
Rakali: Breakwater St Kilda.

Hydromys chrysogaster is the most specialised of the Hydromyini rodent group for aquatics. They feature a flattened head, partly webbed hind feet and water repellent fur that also offers insulation.[11] Their waterproof thick coat varies from extremely dark fur, black to slate grey on their back and white to orange underneath. The thick dark tail is an identifying feature with its white tip. Pelage changes through the process of moulting varies according to sex. Males and females moult in autumn and summer, and females additionally in spring. Moulting is conditional to temperature, reproductive condition, adrenal weight, health and social interaction.[12] The hind feet are wide and partially webbed, the broad face, flattened head and long whiskers are all distinguishing features. Their body grows to a length of 39 cm excluding the tail.[13]

This well-adapted semi-aquatic and territorial species may become very aggressive in high-density populations as they are mostly solitary. Fighting is common, leading to scarred tails from being bitten during fighting amongst both adult males and females.[13] Animals often exhibit ulcerated wounds, subcutaneous cysts and tumours mostly in the dorsal and posterior regions.[7]

Ecology

Distribution, Range and Habitat

 src=
Habitat: Rakali swimming in a creek

This widespread species can be found in permanent water systems in Australia, New Guinea and offshore islands. Rakali live near permanent water in a diverse range of habitat that varies from fresh slow-moving streams, brackish inland lakes and creeks to wetlands, rivers, estuaries and beaches on coastlines.[5] Found in all states and territories, this adaptable species has resumed resettlement populations in both Australia and New Guinea.[11] The map above shows their distribution throughout Australia and New Guinea.

Widely distributed through eastern Australia, west of the Kimberley, along the Northern coastline, throughout New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, their habitat varies from freshwater streams to brackish wetlands,[6] including shallow lakes (up to 2 m in depth) and farm dams, deep water storages, slow-moving rivers, creeks and streams, estuaries, coastal lakes and sheltered marine bays.[2]

Their home range typically comprises 1–4 km of waterways and they can travel a distance of between 200 m to a kilometre in a night when foraging.[3] They prefer low banks with flat, densely vegetated water edges for protection and ease of stalking prey,[13] spending time when not foraging resting in hollow logs and burrows.[3]

Diet and foraging

 src=
Helminth: various species of worms that infest water rats

Rakali are a predominately carnivorous species feeding on a variety of aquatic animals including fish, crustaceans, shellfish, small birds, eggs, mammals, frogs, reptiles. In winter, when resources are limited, they will also take plants.[14] A mostly nocturnal species, they search for their food on dusk, partly by sight when in the water and hunting prey on the waters edge returning to a favourite feeding place where evidence of previous catches can be seen. They can be found swimming and feeding in the early morning and evening. The animal does not tolerate low temperatures well, so they prefer terrestrial prey in winter over the aquatic species. They also spend long periods in the warmth of the burrow.[13] A relatively new addition to their diet is the hearts and livers of the toxic cane toad, where the toads have moved into their territory.[15]

Their diet makes this species susceptible to infestations of nematodes, with large numbers of Cosmocephalus australiensis recorded in 1959 burrowed into their stomach walls. Other worms namely cestodes and trematodes occur in high numbers in the small intestines. Sparganosis also afflicts rakali, these parasites coil under the skin surface in the shoulder and back region.[7][16][17] The extent of infestation and the varieties of helminths that are present reflects the region which they inhabit.[18]

Metabolism

The rakali is not well adapted to hot and cold extremes as it has poor insulation qualities. Aquatic mammals need to maintain relatively constant body temperature to prevent or compensate for their thermally hostile environment. One of the few diurnal Australian rodents, they cannot maintain their body temperature below 15° and risk hyperthermia in temperatures that exceed 35°. Their vascular system has network adaptions for heat loss, but no major heat conserving vascular retia. This causes poor thermoregulation and poor insulative capacity in wet fur.[19] They control body temperature by remaining in the burrow in the heat of the day in summer and by foraging during the day in winter.[3][13][19]

Expending energy in this aquatic species is documented as lower, using less oxygen when moving on land than locomotion in water. Rakali have the capacity to run at twice their maximum swimming velocity. Their metabolic rate increases during running at a rate of 13-40% greater than when swimming.[20]

Predators and predation

 src=
Yabbies: most common food source

Humans have been their greatest predator, with rakali requiring protection by legislation in 1938. They were hunted for their soft fur and considered a pest species. Populations are considered to have recovered and in all states considered of 'least concern' with the exception of Western Australia.[14] Considered a pest in irrigation systems due to burrowing into banks and creating leaks, in a positive sense they have also been attributed to reduction of bank damage as they prey on freshwater crayfish (yabbies).

Predators of the rakali range from large fish and snakes when they are young and in the water, to birds of prey, foxes and cats.[2][13] The rakali has the unusual ability to kill cane toads without being poisoned.[13]

Behaviour and life history

Nesting

 src=
Rakali: reeds offer protection from predators

The breeding behaviours are influenced by seasonal conditions. Under good seasonal conditions the solitary water rat comes together with their mate and may produce several litters (if young are removed will reproduce again within two months), but separate on the birth of the young.[7] Limited information is available on home range, but suggests localised movement around the nesting sites and foraging areas. Rakali construct burrows dug into river banks but have also been documented building nests within sunken logs and reeds, in areas surrounded by roots and dense riparian vegetation for cover from predators.[2]

There is increasing evidence of altered nesting habitat with rakali using artificial shelters of drainage pipes, exhaust pipes in moored boats, and rubber tyres in human-modified areas. This occurs more frequently in high population density situations.[3]

Breeding and growth

Females are able to reproduce from one-year-old or 425 g.[7] Mating commences from late winter to early spring with a gestation period of 34 days. Rakali have four mammae with nipples located in the abdominal inguinal area enabling litters of an average of four to five are born from September to February and are suckled for four weeks. Sexual maturity develops at around twelve months but has been documented to commence at 4 months and breeding in the season of their birth.[14] They are able to continue breeding until females are three and a half years old, and have a life expectancy of 3–4 years.[3][7]

A territorial species, they are mostly solitary excluding the periods of mating and rearing their young.[13] Their social organisation suggests adults are intra-sexually aggressive with their limited home range and overlapping sex and age classes. In captivity, only the dominant female in the hierarchy will successfully reproduce.[3] Fecundity is lower than that of other murid species producing only four to five litters, but fertility is very high which can create high population growth in a period of favorable breeding conditions. This can be also influenced by the rapid growth in juveniles who can reach maturity and size within their first year.[7]

H. chryogaster in comparison to the Rattus species mature late and have long reproductive lifecycles. They have lower reproductive output, delayed implantation, lactation anoestrus, winter anoestrus, longer estrous and longer gestation cycle. Their development occurs in stages associated with the eruption of incisors, hearing and eye-opening, eating solid foods, puberty and full reproductive maturity.[21]

Status

Although nationwide the populations appear stable there are individual populations facing a significant threat. Near threatened in Western Australia's wheat belt, urbanisation, salinisation, waterway degradation and pollution have all attributed to this status change.[2] In Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales they are classified as 'least concern'. In the Victorian Lake Wellington, Lake Victoria and Lake Tyers region numbers have declined in the past fifty years attributed to commercial eel-fishing, predation, loss of habitat due to commercial development and poisoning from baiting programs placing this species at risk.[3]

References

  1. ^ Aplin, K.; Copley, P.; Robinson, T.; Burbidge, A.; Morris, K.; Woinarski, J.; Friend, T.; Ellis, M. & Menkhorst, P. (2008). "Hydromys chrysogaster". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008. Retrieved 2015-02-06.old-form url
  2. ^ a b c d e Speldwinde, P.C; Close, P; Weybury, M; Comer, S (2013). "Habitat preference of the Australian water rat (Hydromys chryogaster) in a coastal wetland and stream, Two Peoples Bay, south-west Australia". Australian Mammalogy. 35: 188–194. doi:10.1071/AM12001.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Williams, G.A; Serena, M (2014). "DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS OF AUSTRALIAN WATER-RATS (Hydromys chrysogaster) IN THE GIPPSLAND LAKES" (PDF). A REPORT TO THE GIPPSLAND LAKES MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE. Australian Platypus Conservancy. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  4. ^ Goodfellow, Denise (1993). Fauna of Kakadu and the Top End. Kent Town (S. Aust.): Wakefield Press. ISBN 1862543062.
  5. ^ a b c Atkinson, C. A; Lund, M. A; Morris, K. D (2008). "BiblioRakali: the Australian water rat, Hydromys chrysogaster Geoffroy, 1804 (Muridae: Hydromyinae), a subject-specific bibliography" (PDF). Conservation Science Western Australia. 7 (1): 65–71. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  6. ^ a b "Hydromys chrysogaster: Water-rat | Atlas of Living Australia". bie.ala.org.au. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g McNally, J (1959). "The biology of the water rat Hydromys chrysogaeter Geoffery (Muridae: Hydromyinae) in Victoria". Australian Journal of Zoology. 8: 170–180. doi:10.1071/zo9600170.
  8. ^ Seebeck, J; Menkhorst, P (2000). "Status and conservation of rodents in Australia". Wildlife Research. 27: 357–369. doi:10.1071/wr97055.
  9. ^ Smart, C; Speldewinde, P.C; Mills, H.R (2011). "Influence of habitat characteristics on the distribution of water-rat (Hydromys chrysogeaster) in the greater Perth region, Western Australia" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia. 94: 533–539. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  10. ^ a b Braithwaite R. W.; et al. (1995). Australian names for Australian rodents. Australian Nature Conservation Agency. ISBN 978-0-642-21373-0.
  11. ^ a b Hinds, F.E; Close, R. L; Campbell, M.T; Spencer, P.B.S (2002). "Characterization of polymorphic microsatellite markers in the water rat (Hydromys chryogaster)". Molecular Ecology Notes. 2: 42–44. doi:10.1046/j.1471-8286.2002.00140.x.
  12. ^ Olsen, P (1980). "Seasonal and maturational pelage changes, and injuries, in the Eastern Water Rat, Hydromys chryogaster, at Griffith, N.S.W". Australian Wildlife Research. 7 (2): 217–233. doi:10.1071/wr9800217.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "North Central Catchment management authority". Water Rat Hydromys chrysogaster. Description and characteristics. North Central Catchment Management Authority. n.d. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  14. ^ a b c "Taxon Attribute Profiles, Hydromys chrysogaster". CSIRO, Water for a Healthy Country. n.d. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  15. ^ Parrott, Marissa; Doody, Sean; Clulow, Simon (23 September 2019). "Eat your heart out: native water rats have worked out how to safely eat cane toads". The Conversation. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  16. ^ Beveridge, I (1980). "Uncinaria Hydromydis SP. N (Nematoda Ancylostomatidae) from the Australian water rat, Hydromys chrysogaster". Australian Society of Parasitologists. 66 (6): 1027–1031. doi:10.2307/3280410. JSTOR 3280410.
  17. ^ Obendorf, D.L; Smales, L.R (1985). "The internal parasites and pathological findings in Hydromys chrysogaster (Muridae: Hydromyinae) from Tasminia". Australian Journal of Zoology. 33: 33–8. doi:10.1071/zo9850033.
  18. ^ Smales, L.R; Cribb, T.H (1997). "Helminth Parasite communities of the water rat Hydromys chrysogaster, from Queensland". Wildlife Research. 24 (4): 445–457. doi:10.1071/wr96074.
  19. ^ a b Fanning, F.D; Dawson, T.J (1980). "Body temperature variability in the Australian water rat, Hydromys chryogaster, in air and water". Australian Journal of Zoology. 28 (2): 229–238. doi:10.1071/zo9800229.
  20. ^ Fish, F.E; Baudinette, R.V (1999). "Energetics of locomotion by the Australian water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster): A comparison of swimming and running in a semi-aquatic mammal". The Journal of Experimental Biology (202): 353–363. PMID 9914144.
  21. ^ Smales, L.R (2006). "A new acuariid species (Spirurida, Acrididae) and other nematodes from Hydromys (Muridae, Hydromyinae) from Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea". Zootaxa. 1110 (1110): 27–37. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1110.1.3.

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Rakali: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The rakali, Hydromys chrysogaster, also known as the rabe or water-rat, is an Australian native rodent first described in 1804. The change to the aboriginal name Rakali was intended to foster a positive public attitude by Environment Australia. The Gunwinggu (Kunwinjku) people of western Arnhem Land call this animal Yirrku.

One of four described species in the genus Hydromys, it is the only one with a range extending beyond Papua New Guinea and Indonesian West Papua. Having adapted to and colonised a unique niche of a semiaquatic and nocturnal lifestyle, this species lives in burrows on the banks of rivers, lakes and estuaries and feeds on aquatic insects, fish, crustaceans, mussels, snails, frogs, birds' eggs and water birds. Rakali have a body 231–370 millimetres (9.1–14.6 in) in length, weigh, 340–1,275 grams (0.750–2.811 lb) and have a thick tail measuring around 242–345 millimetres (9.5–13.6 in). Females are generally smaller than males but tail lengths are normally the same. They have partially webbed hind legs, waterproof fur, a flattened head, a long blunt nose, many whiskers and small ears and eyes. The body is streamlined with a skull that is large, flat and elongated, with two molars on the upper and lower jaw, similar to the water mouse. They are black to brown in colour with an orange to white belly, and dark tail with a white tip.

Hunted for their soft fur and considered a nuisance animal, numbers were under threat until a protection order in 1938. They were still under destruction permits from 1938 to 1957 due to alleged destruction of irrigation banks and destruction of fishing nets. Additionally from 1957 to 1967 a number of licensed seasons were also held for this reason.

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