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







Red Spiny Rat

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4



Family : Muridae
Species : Maxomys surifer

Head-Body Length : Up to 21 cm
Tail Length : Up to 21 cm

This handsome species of rat occurs in primary and mature secondary forest, and adjacent cleared or cultivated areas. It does not occur in heavily degraded habitats or in large-scale oil palm plantations. It is nocturnal and mainly terrestrial in habits.

The species is known to be omnivorous, feeding on fallen fruits and other plant matter, as well as insects and other invertebrates.

Reaching up to 21 cm in head-body length, the Red Spiny Rat can be identified by its intense orange-brown or red-brown dorsal fur, which contrasts with a pale yellowish to white belly. The demarcation between the dorsal and ventral fur is sharp. Short, stiff spines occur amongst both the dorsal and ventral fur. There is often an orange-brown collar under the neck, a feature which is never found in the closely related Rajah Spiny Rat.

The tail is dark above and light below, and lacks significant fur. The snout is long and pointed, and the limbs short. The hind feet are long and slender.

On mainland Asia, the Red Spiny Rat occurs in southern China, Myanmar, Thailand and Indochina, and Peninsular Malaysia (including smaller, adjacent islands). Offshore its range extends to Sumatra, Java and Borneo. It is believed to be extinct in Singapore.

Figs 1 to 3 : Red Spiny Rat (male) foraging for scraps at the edge of tall, primary lowland rainforest.  This specimen lacks the orange-brown colour under the neck. Seen at Pulau Langkawi, northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 4 : Example from lowland swamp forest habitat, Johor, southern Peninsular Malaysia.

References : M5