The northern Luzon giant cloud rat (Phloeomys pallidus) is a nocturnal rodent. It lives primarily in the upper branches of trees in lowland tropical rainforests and montane rain forests. It can be found from sea level up to the high mountains. This rat is endemic to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, which means that it is native only to that area and is not found anywhere else.

Despite its name, this rat is not actually giant, even for a rodent. It can get up to 770 millimeters (30 inches) long and weigh up to 2.6 kilograms (5.5 pounds). It has thick fur that can be various colors, though it usually has dark brown or black markings. It has small ears and a bushy tail. The northern Luzon giant cloud rat is well adapted to live in trees, with large back feet and long claws.

It can be difficult to study this shy creature in the wild, so some information is lacking. Scientists are not entirely sure what the northern Luzon giant cloud rat eats, though they think it eats young shoots and berries. There have also been some reports of the rat raiding crops. Some of what we know about this animal comes only from observing it in captivity and may not apply to animals in the wild. For example, scientists know little about the breeding habits and longevity of the northern Luzon giant cloud rat in the wild. In captivity, these rats give birth to one young a year, and these births have occurred in almost every month. In the wild, only one pregnant rat has been seen. Captive northern Luzon giant cloud rats have been known to live up to 13 years, but there is no data on how long they live in the wild.

  1. The northern Luzon giant cloud rat is found only on the island of Luzon. Why are endemic species often found on islands?

    • Answer

      Endemic species usually develop in places that are isolated. Islands are cut off from other land areas. When an island is cut off for an extended period of time, tens of thousands of years or more, species can evolve on the island that are different from those found anywhere else. Though animals can easily travel between islands when they are close together, when islands are separated from other land masses by great distances, it is more difficult for animals to migrate from there to other locations. Though islands are a common place to find endemic species, they can also be found in other isolated locations.

  2. Why might the fact that the northern Luzon giant cloud rat is endemic to one island make it more vulnerable?

    • Answer

      Because it only lives in one place, habitat loss in that place could be devastating to the entire species. The introduction of a disease can also be a big threat. Since endemic species evolve in an isolated place, they may not be exposed to many predators and diseases. Introduction of non-native predators and diseases through human actions can affect the whole species. 

  3. Why might the behaviors seen in captive animals not match those of the same animal in the wild?

    • Answer

      The stresses on animals in the wild are different than those of captive animals. Animals typically have more predators in the wild and may live in an environment that fluctuates in temperature, rainfall, etc., more than in captivity.

adapt
Verb

to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.

breed
Verb

to produce offspring.

endemic
Adjective

native to a specific geographic space.

longevity
Noun

length or duration of a service, including usefulness or life itself.

montane
Adjective

natural region defined by upland slopes and large conifers.

nocturnal
Adjective

active at night.

rodent
Noun

order of mammals often characterized by long teeth for gnawing and nibbling.

shoot
Noun

newly sprouted plant or plant growth.