Science and conservation for the world’s 2800 small mammal species

Rodents: Family Thryonomyidae

holding_imgThe family Thryonomyidae, also called cane rats, has one genus, Thryonomys, which includes two species: T. gregorianus (the Lesser cane rat) and T. swimderianus (the Greater cane rat). The family dates to the Eocene with fossils distributed in Asia, Europe and Africa. The family can now be found south of the Sahara in Africa. Thryonomyids are mostly found in wet or swampy areas that have abundant grass, and they sometimes extend into agricultural areas. T. gregorianus uses tall grass for shelter and they sometimes dig shallow burrows or use rock crevices, termite mounds and abandoned aardvark or porcupine holes as shelter. On other occasions this species was observed inhabiting edges along swamps. T. swimderiamus are the more fully aquatic of the two species and they occur near marshes and river banks occasionally expanding into habitats near farmlands.

Thryonomys are large (4 to 6 kg) and have stocky bodies and limbs that are short and powerful with thick, strong claws that are adapted for digging. Thryonomys males initiate courtship by wagging their tails and treading their hind legs. Males duel by pushing each other nose to nose to establish dominance within their social group hierarchy. These nocturnal herbivores make well defined paths that go from feeding areas to water by pounding down dense grass. This family is sometimes found in small groups, but are usually solitary. Thryonomys hold an important significance as wild animals for humans in that in some areas they are hunted for their high protein meat. Due to their value as a source of protein humans have started to domesticate them, which helps to relieve the pressure placed on the wild populations.



Work Cited
Myers, P. 2000. “Thryonomyidae” (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 23, 2015 at
Antonanza, R.L., Sen, S. and Mein, P. 2004. Systematics and phylogeny of the cane rats (Rodentia: Thryonomyidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 142: 423–444

Author: Rebeca Mendez