Species Profile and Threats Database

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In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Rattus macleari [25904]
Family Muridae:Rodentia:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Thomas, 1887
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Rattus macleari

Common name: Maclear's Rat, Christmas Island Rat

Maclear's Rat was a large rat (considerably larger than Rattus rattus), probably with large, powerful teeth (Tidemann 1989). The species was chestnut brown above with a partly white, long tail (Flannery 1990). The species was described as a good climber (Andrews 1900b) and made loud squeaking noises (Andrews 1897).

Remains from a number of individuals are held in the CSIRO National Wildlife Collection, Canberra (Tidemann 1989) and specimens are also located in the Natural History Museum, London, the Museum of Zoology of Cambridge University, and the Museum of Natural History of Oxford University (Wyatt et al 2008).

Maclear's Rat occurred on Christmas Island, an island located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 2800 km west of Darwin and 320 km south of Java (Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001). The species was described as widespread on the Island in 1900 (Andrews 1900b) but is thought to have become extinct by 1904 (Lamoreux 2008).

Maclear's Rat was described as abundant (Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001), and common (Andrews 1897; Andrews 1900b), on Christmas Island, at least in the vicinity of the settlement at Flying-Fish Cove.

During the daytime, Maclear's Rat lived in holes among the roots of trees, in decayed logs, and shallow burrows. At night, it foraged in the forests (Andrews 1900b). It also adapted to life around human settlements, being described as a nuisance because it ate skins and leather boots (Andrews 1900b). The species was apparently quite opportunistic in its choice of resting places (Tidemann 1989).

The reproduction details of Maclear's Rat remain unknown.

The Maclear's Rat may have fed on the Christmas Island Red Crabs Gecarcoidea natalis (Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001) and other species of crab on the island (Tidemann 1989). It apparently had a varied diet as it was recorded climbing to the tops of trees in search of fruit, and eating skins and leather boots around settlements (Andrews 1900b).

The rats were known to enter tents and shelters in their search of food (Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001).

Maclear's Rat was strictly nocturnal (Tidemann 1989).

While there have been numerous propositions as to the cause of the Maclear's Rat extinction, including hybridisation (Pickering & Norris 1996) and feral cat predation, Wyatt and colleagues (2008) conclude that Maclear's Rat (as well as the Christmas Island Rat, Rattus nativitatus) were likely to have become extinct as a result of the introduction of a pathogen (such as Trypanosoma lewisi) carried by the introduced Black Rat (Rattus rattus) which first arrived at the Island in 1899. Through their analysis of DNA from museum specimens collected before and after the introduction of the Black Rat to Christmas Island, Wyatt and colleagues (2008) conclude that the immunologically na´ve rats on the Island experienced widespread morbidity and extensive mortality, the result of which was population collapse and extinction. Between 1902 and 1903, sick and dying Maclear's Rats were commonly seen; they were subsequently not recorded again (Andrews 1909b). It is likely that Maclear's Rat was extinct by 1904, just five years after the Black Rat's introduction to Christmas Island (Lamoreux 2008).

Cats, Felis catus, had become established on Christmas Island by the early 1900s (Andrews 1909b; Ridley 1906) and may have partially contributed to the decline of the species through predation. However, there does not appear to be a direct link between the introduction of Cats and the demise of this species (Lamoreux 2008; Tidemann 1989).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Rattus macleari in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006wo) [Internet].

Andrews, C.W. (1897). Unpublished letter to C. Sherborn, British Museum (Natural History). In collection of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

Andrews, C.W. (1900b). Mammalia In: A monograph of Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). London: British Museum.

Andrews, C.W. (1909b). An account of Andrews' visit to Christmas Island in 1908. In: Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. Page(s) 101-103.

Baillie, J. (1996). Rattus macleari 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [Online]. [Accessed: 15-Jun-2007].

Flannery, T. (1990). The rats of Christmas past. Australian Natural History. 23(5):394-400.

Flannery, T. & P. Schouten (2001). A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Lamoreux, J. (2008). Rattus macleari. IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. [Online]. Available from:

Pickering, J. & C.A. Norris (1996). New evidence on the extinction of the endemic murid Rattus macleari from Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Australian Mammalogy. 19:35-41.

Ridley, H.N. (1906). An expedition to Christmas Island. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 45:137.

Tidemann, C. (1989). Survey of the terrestrial mammals on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Forestry Department, Australian National University.

Wyatt, K.B., P.F. Campos, M.T.P. Gilbert, S-O. Kolokotronis, W.H. Hynes & S.J. Ball (2008). Historical Mammal Extinction on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) Correlates with Introduced Infectious Disease. PLoS ONE. 3 (11). [Online]. e3602. Available from:

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Rattus macleari in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:52:42 +1000.