Diatomyidae – Laotian rock rat

A family of hystricomorph rodents that was considered to be extinct for nearly 11 million years

The intriguing Laotian rock rat, the sole living representative of its family, stands as a captivating testament to the rich diversity of life in Southeast Asia. While its relatives are primarily known through the fossil record, this enigmatic species thrives in the rugged terrain of rocky areas, where it has adapted to its unique niche with remarkable resilience and resourcefulness. Sporting a distinctive appearance reminiscent of both rats and squirrels, the Laotian rock rat boasts a thick fur coat and a bushy tail, providing both insulation and camouflage in its rocky habitat.

Despite its name, the diet of the Laotian rock rat extends beyond mere rocks, encompassing a varied array of plant matter, including leaves, grasses, and seeds. While vegetation forms the bulk of its diet, these resourceful rodents may supplement their meals with occasional forays into the realm of insects, although such delicacies are likely consumed in moderation rather than abundance. This dietary versatility enables Laotian rock rats to adapt to fluctuations in food availability and optimize their nutritional intake in their rocky environs.

Sociality is a defining feature of Laotian rock rat life, as these gregarious rodents form tight-knit groups within their rocky habitats. Within these social units, females play a central role in reproduction, giving birth to a single offspring at a time. The cohesive bonds forged within these groups contribute to the collective survival and success of the species, facilitating cooperative behaviors such as group foraging, predator defense, and offspring rearing.