The Roof Rat, Rattus rattus, in Virginia
Ralph P. Eckerlin1,*, Paige Berends2, Cassidy Downing2, and Kurt E. Galbreath2
1Math, Science, and Technology Division, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, VA 22003. 2Biology Department, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI 49855. *Corresponding author.
Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 29, Issue 2 (2022): N40–N45
We collected a single specimen of Rattus rattus (Roof Rat) in Highland County, VA, a previously unknown locality for the species. We collected ecto- and endoparasites, including the louse Polyplax spinulosa, the tick Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog Tick), and the nematode Aspicularis americana. which we archived along with the host voucher specimen. Sequencing of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene confirmed the rodent species identification based on comparisons to R. rattus sequences available in the GenBank database. Herein we review specimen records of Roof Rats and Rattus norvegicus (Brown Rat). Both species have a deep history in Virginia, but Roof Rats appear to have declined in coastal cities, while Brown Rats have become more common in those areas. Roof Rats apparently persist in rural relictual populations such as that identified in Highland County.