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a genus of rodents of the family Muridae.
The body length of the rat ranges from 10 to 30 cm. The tail is slightly longer or shorter than the body and covered with scales and sparse hair. The snout is pointed; the ears, large and leathery. About 60 species of Rattus are known, distributed originally in the forests of the tropics and subtropics (Africa, southern Asia). As early as the Paleolithic, certain synanthropic species began to spread northward, following man, and gradually settling very widely (including America).
There are three species of rats in the USSR. The black rat (R. rattus), a synanthrope, is found in the European part of the USSR and in the Far East. The brown rat (R. norvegicus), also a synanthrope, is found in Siberia. The Turkestan rat (R. turke-stanicus) lives in the wild in the mountain forests of Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, and Tadzhikistan. The first two species also live under natural conditions in the southern parts of their areas of distribution, in burrows and tree hollows.
Rats reproduce every three or four months, bearing five to 15 young; these become sexually mature at the age of three or four months. Rats are omnivorous. They cause great damage by spoiling and eating food products and certain materials (for example, leather) and damaging living and working premises. They are carriers of helminthic and many infectious diseases. They are controlled by mechanical, chemical, and biological methods. The skins can serve as a raw material for second-grade leather and fur.
REFERENCESArgiropulo, A. I. Semeistvo Muridae—myshi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. (Fauna SSSR: Mlekopitaiushchie, vol. 3, issue 5.)
Ellerman, J. R. The Families and Genera of Living Rodents, vol. 3, part 1. London, 1949.
I. M. GROMOV