Laotian rock rat – The coelacanth of rodents

Laotian Rock Rat
By Jean-Pierre Hugot - http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0048145 (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048145), Figure 2., CC BY 2.5, Link

The Laotian Rock rat is also called the Lazarus rat because the family they belong to: Diatomyidae is only known to us from 30 million year old fossils dug up in the Indian subcontinent. The name of the genus Laonastes, means “inhabitant of stone” (from Greek). This is because they live in rocky terrain. The species name aenigmamus stands for “enigma mouse”. That is due to the fact that this creature resemble a cross between a rat and a squirrel and is neither. Their closest relatives are the Gundi’s or comb rats of India.

These creatures are quite abundant in their remote habitat in the Khammouane province of Laos. They are to be found on limestone rocks on the hillsides and are known to be nocturnal.

This animal was re-discovered by science in 2005 in the local meat market of Laos. It is a squirrel-sized animal covered with dark, dense fur and bearing a long tail that’s not as bushy as that of a typical squirrel. The most interesting feature of this animal is that it waddles like a duck. This is to help it negotiate it’s rocky and uneven terrain. The sideways angle allowing for greater surface area for their feet to find purchase on angled surfaces.

Several other types  have since been found in Laotian meat markets, leading scientists to believe that the rats may be more common (and tastier) than one might assume.

This rodent is chiefly an herbivore with some insects in it’s diet. The females gives birth to one baby at a time and this species is listed as of Least concern by the IUCN Red List.

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