Facebook Friends: Trinidad and Tobago: Quartet of Trinbagonian Rodents
In honor of the more than 100 people who like the Daily Mammal Facebook page, I’m drawing a mammal (or a handful) from each of their homelands. So far, we’ve met mammals from the United States and Greece, and today we’re celebrating some mammalian neighbors of the Daily Mammal Facebook liker who lives in Trinidad and Tobago.
Do you know much about Trinidad and Tobago? I didn’t. I still don’t know much, but here’s what I do know: Trinidad and Tobago is a Caribbean country consisting mostly of a pair of islands (Trinidad and Tobago), as well as some smaller ones, off the coast of Venezuela. Christopher Columbus landed on Trinidad in 1498 and gave it its name (Tobago’s comes from tobacco), and that meant the end of life as they knew it for the Indians who were living there. The British took over from the Spanish at the turn of the 19th century and combined the two islands into one colony nearly a hundred years later. The country became independent in 1962 and a republic in 1976. English is still the official language. Nicki Minaj and Stokely Carmichael were both born in Trinidad. Wikipedia’s list of the fruits available there includes 15 that I’ve never even heard of, but I would sure like to try them.
These rodents all live in Trinidad and Tobago and all have Trinidad in their common names. Clockwise from the top left are the Trinidad spiny rat (Proechimys trinitatus), the Trinidad spiny pocket mouse (Heteromys anomalus), the Trinidad water rat (Nectomys palmipes), and the Trinidad arboreal rice rat (Oecomys trinitatis). The Trinidad spiny rat is endemic to Trinidad, while the others also occur on the mainland of Venezuela or neighboring countries. The IUCN says they’re all of Least Concern except the Trinidad spiny rat, which is Data Deficient.
I found them all slightly Data Deficient for my purposes, actually, and I don’t have a whole lot I can tell you about them, except a little about the Trinidad spiny pocket mouse (which is in the same family as the kangaroo rats, by the way). The following facts come from the University of the West Indies’ Online Guide to the Animals of Trinidad and Tobago (PDF), which doesn’t seem to cover the other species. The Trinidad spiny pocket mouse is nocturnal, and though it can climb trees well, it nests underground. It eats seeds, fruit, and grains, and it loves to raid farms. It gets its name not because it’s pocket-sized but because it fills its pocket-like cheeks with food to twice the size of its head, then carries the food off to store it somewhere. This is a pretty sweet image: “A common behaviour that the young heteromyids display is that they may put the wrong objects in the pouches of their cheeks. They occasionally put in objects such as stones, twigs or faeces instead of seeds or other food items.”