Rats are medium sized, long tailed rodents belonging to the superfamily Muroidea. Many members of other genera and families of rodents can also be called rats as they share several features like that of rats that were true. They are different from mice and should be confused with them. Rats are large muroid rodents while mice are little muroid rodents. Muroid family is a very complex family and the terms rat and mice aren’t taxonomically relevant.
These species are commonly called Old World rats or true rats and they originated in Asia. They are bigger than Old World mice that weigh hardly 500 grams. The term rat is also used for some tiny animals that aren’t true rodents for instance, kangaroo rats, bandicoot rats and North American pack rats. They’re also rodents but don’t belong to the genus Rattus. Males are known as bucks, unmated females are called as does and the pregnant females are known as dams. The young ones are called kitten or pups. A group of rats can be termed as pack or mischief. In some developed countries the domesticated rat species are kept as pets in homes. R. norvegicus is usually kept as pet and it originated in China and spread to Europe and finally in the New World. Pet brown rats are also called fancy rats.
The common species act as commensals as they live human environment. Such cause tremendous damage of the stored food products. Many species of brown and black rats have become endangered due to loss of natural habitats. Wild rats are known to be carriers of a range of pathogens and parasites like Toxoplasma gondii. Many species act as vectors of the Rat flea and are responsible for the spread of plague and other related diseases. Their average life span varies from 2-5 years. Specially bred species have been kept as pets since the 19th century. Pet species do not cause any type of damage to other pet animals like cats and dogs.
Brown rats are often used as model organisms in scientific study. With the publication of Rat Genome Sequence Brown Rat has become an extremely useful genetic tool. Domestic species differ from wild ones in a number of ways. They are calm and hardly bite and have the ability to tolerate crowding to a greater extent. Their brain, adrenal glands and heart, kidneys, liver are smaller than the wild rats. Collars are consumed as food by people and occasionally eaten in emergency conditions also. Bandicoot rodents are the famous foods of some Southeast Asian locations. Their meat is a fantastic source of protein. Rattus rattus and the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis are very notorious for their eminent role in the transmission of bubonic plague.
They have a special role in both faith and culture. In India it is regarded as the vehicle of Lord Ganesh. Their statue is always located in the Ganesh temple. In the Chinese culture it’s first of the twelve animals of Chinese zodiac. European association with rats is strongly negative. Rats act as substitute for vulgar interjections from the English Language. They have been despised as they act as vectors for a range of disease causing agents and have dirty habits. They’ve been used as experimental animals since time immemorial. One of the famous stories about rats is The Pied Piper of Hamelin where a rat catcher saved the city from rats with the magical tune of his flute. The genus Rattus presently contains 64 species.
They are both beneficial and harmful.