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The Crested Rat (Lophiomys imhausi)

The crested rat looks a lot like a porcupine but is actually far more fascinating. For instance, it is the only known poisonous rodent. How is it poisonous? Well, let's look at the research and find out more!

Physical Description and Behavior

These rats have silver and black-tipped guard hairs all over, covering a wooly-gray undercoat. These hairs are not hard, but actually soft like regular hairs. When they get anxious or upset, they will bristle out the guard hairs on its mane, secreting a foul-smelling liquid on its body, not unlike that of a skunk. Their thick skulls and skin helps them to defend against attacks, and survive in the harsh conditions they are in.

Fun Fact: This little guy is the only rodent in the world that is known to be poisonous. This poison comes from the bark of the Acokanthera schimperi, which the maned rat feeds from. They are known to be seen smearing the poison from these trees all over their fur as a defense mechanism. Some sources claim that this poison is so potent that it can even kill elephants.

They are about 14 inches long, not including a tail that is about 7 inches long. Their size, color, and appearance look a lot like that of a porcupine or a house cat. They even seem to purr much as a cat would.

Habitat and Location

These rats can be found in East Africa, including Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania. They prefer to live in shrublands, savannas, and forests.

They are only found in small pockets throughout Africa, and trapping them for study seems to be hard due to their relatively small number. Despite this, the IUCN Red List considers them to be a species of Least Concern.

You can watch the crested rat apply poison to its fur by watching the video below:

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