Black Rat

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The black rat (Rattus rattus) is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus (rats) in the subfamily Murinae (murine rodents). The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 1st century and spreading with Europeans across the world.

Contents

Taxonomy

The black rat was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, and it still bears its original name of Rattus rattus.[1] It is the type species of the genus Rattus. Alternate names include ship rat, roof rat, house rat, Alexandrine rat, and old English rat.

Description

A typical adult black rat is 12.75–18.25 in (32.4–46.4 cm) long, including a 6.5–10 in (17–25 cm) tail, and weighs 4–12 oz (110–340 g).[2] Despite its name, the black rat exhibits several colour forms. It is usually black to light brown in colour with a lighter underside. In the 1920s in England, several variations were bred and shown alongside domesticated brown rats. This included an unusual green tinted variety.[3]

Distribution and habitat

The black rat originated in India and Southeast Asia, and spread to the Near East adn Egypt, and then throughout theRoman Empire, reaching England as early as the 1st century.[4] Europeans subsequently spread it throughout the world. Today the black rat is again largely confined to warmer areas, having been supplanted by the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) in cooler regions and urban areas. In addition to being larger and more aggressive, the change from wooden structures and thatched roofs to bricked and tiled buildings favored the burrowing brown rats over the arboreal black rats. In addition, brown rats eat a wider variety of foods, and are more resistant to weather extremes.[5]

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