Oryzomys

Oryzomys is a genus of semiaquatic rodents in the tribe Oryzomyini living in southern North America and far northern South America. It includes eight species, two of which—the marsh rice rat (O. palustris) of the United States and O. couesi of Mexico and Central America—are widespread; the six others have more restricted distributions. The species have had eventful taxonomic histories, and most species were at one time included in the marsh rice rat; additional species may be recognized in the future. The name Oryzomys was established in 1857 by Spencer Fullerton Baird for the marsh rice rat and was soon applied to over a hundred species of American rodents. Subsequently, the genus gradually became more narrowly defined until its current contents were established in 2006, when ten new genera were established for species previously placed in Oryzomys.

Species of Oryzomys are medium-sized rats with long, coarse fur. The upperparts are gray to reddish and the underparts white to buff. The animals have broad feet without complete ungual tufts of hair around the claws and, in at least some species, with webbing between the toes. The rostrum (front part of the skull) is broad and the braincase is high. Both the marsh rice rat and O. couesi have 56 chromosomes, lack a gall bladder, and have a complex penis (as is characteristic of the Sigmodontinae) with some traits that are rare among oryzomyines; these characteristics are unknown in the other species of this genus.

The habitat includes various kinds of wetlands, such as lakes, marshes, and rivers. Oryzomys species swim well, are active during the night, and eat both plant and animal food. They build woven nests of vegetation. After a gestation period of 21 to 28 days, about four young are born. Species of Oryzomys are infected by numerous parasites and carry at least three hantaviruses, one of which (Bayou virus) also infects humans. Two, perhaps three, species have gone extinct over the last two centuries and at least one other is endangered, but the widespread marsh rice rat and O. couesi are not threatened.

Read more about Oryzomys:  Taxonomy, Description, Distribution, Ecology, and Behavior, Human Interactions

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