Now that’s a big rat!

I’ve worked in the forests of northeast India for over 3 years now, and for most part have been live-trapping small mammals. Many others have trapped here over the past years. Most of us use Sherman traps of a particular size, that help trap small mammals of the size of Rattus (the animal cooked food in the movie Ratatouille). But there are bigger rodents in the forests – some the size of a small domestic cat! How can we study them? One way is to use bigger live-animal traps, but they are harder to carry when you have to walk far and … Continue reading Now that’s a big rat!

The rise and fall of the predator guild

African savanna. A cheetah is sitting on a mound, gazing keenly at the horizon. Nearby a couple of zebras are nuzzling each other. Far away, and you can’t see it yet, a lion cub is jumping over a female lion trying to sleep in the late afternoon sun. An eagle takes wing, just as an elephant takes liberties with its call. Just another evening with some of the most important animals in the savanna. But there’s more to this landscape than meets the eye. There are tiny things that have important and cascading effects on this ecosystem. Small mammals. Small … Continue reading The rise and fall of the predator guild

The story of an underground hoarder

Imagine a forest rat, scurrying about in the forest in search of food. Forest rats eat different things, but have a particular liking for seeds. These seeds each contain an embryo, sent out by parent plant with enough food reserves to sprout leaves and roots given just enough moisture, oxygen, temperature, and sunlight. These reserves drive rats to seek out seeds on forest floor and hoard them in their private stores. This behavior of rats, affects the survival of seeds, and the manner in which seeds get distributed in forests. To get a sneak-peek into the lives of rodents, we … Continue reading The story of an underground hoarder

The human caravan

We share our houses with a very many different species of plants and animals – some that we want (like our pets), some for which we don’t really care. Many of the latter are species that have made human habitation their home. Are we really a habitat?  It was one of those days – warm one minute and cloudy the next. We sat in the open-air cafeteria, right next to the silver oak plantation on the campus, drinking our mid-morning tea. As we sat talking, we saw a skink dart out from one corner and scamper along the floor. Mabuya … Continue reading The human caravan

Chestnut white-bellied rat a.k.a. tiny forest farmer

Aargh rats! Who said rats are not pretty? One has to only look at Niviventer fulvescens or the Chestnut white-bellied rat, to fall in love with them. Chestnut white-bellied rat, is a tiny rodent with chestnut-orange fur on the back and snowy white on the underside of the body. On the sides of its body where the two colors meet, both stand out. It has long ears and a long face which makes it look rather comical. It has a long tail, dark on top and pinkish-white below. Sometimes the tip of the tail is whitish with a tuft of … Continue reading Chestnut white-bellied rat a.k.a. tiny forest farmer