Saturday, April 3, 2010

A kangaroo rat named after naturalist Adolphus Lewis Heermann

Kangaroo rats are small rodents. Their tail is longer than their body and their long hind legs make them powerful jumpers. They are found in the southwestern USA, where they live in woodlands, chaparral, and desert areas.
There are many kangaroo rat species. One of them is Heermann's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodymys heermanni), which is named after Dr. Adolphus Lewis Heermann (1827-1865) , who was a U.S. Army physician and naturalist [1]. He had an assignment with a surveying party for the Pacific Railroad line. This gave him an opportunity to explore the nature and wildlife, including birds and mammals, of parts of America's Pacific Coast. Heermann's Kangaroo Rat is endemic to California. A subspecies, Dipodymys heermanni morroensis [2], occurs in sand dune habitats of the Morro Bay area including those of Montaña de Oro State Park near Los Osos. This subspecies is considered endangered and is protected within the State Park boundaries.
Heermann , unfortunately, died in a hunting accident, stumbling while his rifle discharged and killed him. He also has a gull named after him: Larus heermanni.

Keywords: Californian coast, Morro Bay kangaroo rat, Heteromyidae, Rodentia, eponymous mammal name

[1] Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson: The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2009; page 183.
[2] Justin Congdon and Aryan Roest: Status of the Endangered Morro Bay Kangaroo Rat. Journal of Mammalogy August 1975, 56 (3), pp. 679-683. Abstract.

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