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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Brown Rat

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4




Family : Muridae
Species : Rattus norvegicus

Head-Body Length : Up to 26 cm
Tail Length : Up to 25 cm
Weight : Up to 500 grams

The Brown Rat is a highly successful murid which, over many centuries, has established itself in coastal towns and cities throughout the world by hitching a ride on vessels plying the world's trade routes.

The species has many other names including Sewer Rat, Wharf Rat and Norway Rat. The latter name, which is also used for its scientific name Rattus norvegicus, is a misnomer : the species did not originate in Norway, but from the Far East (either China, Russia or Japan).

In natural habitats it builds extensive burrow systems, but in urban areas it has adapted to man-made subterranean structures including drains and sewers.

Rattus norvegicus is considered an unwanted pest, which can pose some threat to human health by the spread of disease. Efforts to completely eradicate it from urban areas are usually unsuccessful as its numbers can rapidly increase where there is available food. Reportedly a single female can bear up to 5 litters per years, each with an average of 7 young.

This is a relatively large, terrestrial rat (and a strong swimmer), with some males weighing up to 500 grams or more. It has well developed haunches and a relatively large head.

Its coarse fur is brown to brownish grey on its upperside and flanks : this grades into pale fur on the underside and chest. Its tail is thick, being slightly shorter than its head-body length,
and is typically dark above and pale below, with sparse hairs. Its ears and eyes are small.

The Brown Rat has localised populations in most countries in Southeast Asia and around the world.

Figs 1 to 3 : Example seen perched on debris in a large monsoon drain running beneath a major urban road in Singapore.

Figs 4 : Searching for scraps near a residential area at night.

References : M5