Colour-varieties and markings.
Variations in head-shape, ears etc..
Portraits and personalities.
All animals shown are mine unless otherwise specified.
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To see more photographs of the London Zoo colony, visit Staffan Vilcan's black rat web-page.
Kelly Jnr at approximately 5 days: an orphaned Californian roof rat doe, rescued by Kelly Shepard and fostered by Ruby Cook. Note long muzzle.
Black or "rattus" kitten from London Zoo colony, about 3-4 weeks old - note length of tail even at this age.
Two extremely friendly white-bellied agouti or "frugivorous" does belonging to Veronica Simmons of the National Fancy Rat Society of Britain: Scylla (on left), a typically small and slender ship rat, and her sister Charybdis, an exceptionally large and hefty one. Note naked-backed ears in picture of Scylla, and Charybdis' dark tail, and the prominent genital mound which creates a bulge under the tail in does, and can make ship rats difficult to sex from a distance. Also note dark-grey margins to ears.
Murdoch, a young steel buck, with a splendid example of what the Brantons call "Concorde nose".
The guinea-pig, Marmaduke Gingerbits, is normally free-range: but he had to be shut in that little box so Murdoch couldn't beat him up. Murdoch was fine with humans - female ones, anyway - and made warbling Clanger noises if you rubbed his back, but he tended to view males of any species as rivals: the male cat also had to be protected from him. However he later shared a cage with two of his sons and was a benign and loving father.
Murdoch in middle age: note great depth of head in profile, as compared with its narrowness when seen from the top in the previous photo' of Murdoch with the guinea-pig.
Mimi, Murdoch's daughter and Yoyo's sister, a very dark steel doe - note length of tail.
Mimi lived free-range - because I couldn't catch her - until tragically she broke through into the shop next door and was poisoned.
Veronica Simmons' giant frugivorous doe Charybdis with William, an elderly but still very dark steel buck. Note very large testes, even bigger than in Norway rats.
Adult rattus (black) ship rat from London Zoo colony - note bulbous muzzle.
Janet Girard's Californian frugivorous doe Ike-ola, showing typical level-backed stance.
Pietro Cavagna's wild-caught northern Italian ship rat Alfa, who has an exceptionally long and narrow head even for this species. Note rather prehensile tail, used to brace her against the leaf-stems.
Alfa with Beta, who has an average-length head for Rattus rattus.
Pietro's steel ship rat Gamma, who has an exceptionally short head resembling that of a Norway rat.
Beta being arboreal, showing long, balancing tail.
Valerie Pfeiffer's Canadian buck Tobias, with splendid "Concorde nose", but a shallower head than is usual in ship rats.
Hickory showing typical built-in ship rat smile and deep, narrow head. Also note large, flimsy ears with pronounced horizontal creases.
Tobias, showing naked-backed, thin-skinned, translucent ears. His ears are quite small for a ship rat, but not uniquely so: Ruby Cook's alexandrinus doe Little also has rather small ears.
Tobias is an odd little animal, and it's only on balance of probability that I think he's a very Norway-rat-like ship rat rather than a very ship-rat-like Norway rat. He's within the size-range for R. rattus, about 6oz at 3-4 months, whereas a typical R. norvegicus buck at that age would weigh more than twice as much. He has the very long nose; the dark testicles; the skinny charcoal-grey tail which is hardly wider at the base than it is in the middle (and which incidentally is missing about half an inch off the tip); and above all the naked-backed, creased ears; plus he makes the typical R. rattus whistling snuffle when exploring, and produces small, dry droppings - so he pretty-much has to be a ship rat (unless he's a native North American wood or pack rat, genus Neotoma - but the only Neotoma known to occur in Canada has a fluffy tail). Yet he has a wide, shallow, triangular head like a Norway rat's; he has no appreciable smell; his tail has a pink stripe right along the underside, which is supposedly a wild Norway rat thing; and his behaviour is more Norway than ship rat. In these photographs he looks entirely Scandinavian, apart from the ears and tail.
Tobias is from Vancouver. The Whispering Wise Rattery has photographs of another little wild Vancouver buck called Roo (on the Current Bucks and Wild Rat pages) who is similarly intermediate in form. If Roo too turns out to be a Norway-like ship rat (as defined by the skinny tail, naked ears and desiccated droppings) rather than a ship-like Norway rat, then I suspect Vancouver may actually have a remnant of the intermediate population from which the Norway rat evolved. DNA and palaeontological evidence suggests Rattus norvegicus evolved from an Asian population of R. rattus within the last 10,000 years: and DNA analysis indicates the R. rattus population in North America is of Asian origin.
Rachel Donald's Californian alexandrinus doe Rennie demonstrating how mouse-like ship rats can appear.