Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
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 nativitatis [25905]
Family Muridae:Rodentia:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Thomas, 1889)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Rattus nativitatis

Common name: Christmas Island Rat

Other names: Bulldog Rat

The Christmas Island Rat was a large rat (considerably larger than the Black Rat, Rattus rattus). Its weight was not recorded, but has been estimated at 250–300 g. It had a head and body length of 25–27 cm, and a short, thick tail, 17.5 cm long. The Christmas Island Rat was dark reddish brown above and only slightly paler below, and the hair was long, thick and coarse (Aplin 2008). The species had a layer of subcutaneous fat up to 2 cm thick on the upper surface of the body, the function of which is still unclear (Flannery 1990). The species was described as sluggish and, unlike Maclear's Rat (Rattus macleari), never climbed (Andrews 1900b). It may have appeared half-dazed when exposed to daylight (Andrews 1909b; Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001).

The Christmas Island Rat was endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, approximately 2800 km west of Darwin and 320 km south of Java (Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001). The last record dates from 1903 (Baillie 1996) and the species was thought to be extinct by 1908 (Andrews 1909b).

The Christmas Island Rat was described as abundant in parts of Christmas Island, especially on the hills (e.g. Phosphate Hill), although it was much less common than Maclear's Rat, the other native rat on the island (Andrews 1900b; Aplin 2008).

The Christmas Island Rat lived on the higher hills and in the denser forests of Christmas Island. The species lived in small colonies, in burrows among the roots of trees, under hollow logs, or in the fallen trunks of decaying sago palms (Andrews 1909b; Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001). These animals were also seen near human settlement (Andrews 1900b).

The diet of the Christmas Island Rat was not recorded.

The Christmas Island Rat was strictly nocturnal (Tidemann 1989).

The Christmas Island Rat was easily distinguished from Maclear's Rat by its much shorter tail (Flannery 1990).

The Christmas Island Rat may have succumbed to a disease, or more likely a number of different diseases (Flannery 1990), introduced by the Black Rat that had been inadvertently brought to the island by sailors (Andrews 1909b; Baillie 1996; Flannery & Schouten 2001).The Christmas Island Rat was commonly seen dying in 1902–03, after which none were seen at all (Andrews 1909b).

Cats (Felis catus) had become established on the Island by the early 1900s (Andrews 1909b; Ridley 1906) and may have partially contributed to the species' decline through predation. However, there does not appear to be a direct link between cats and the demise of this species (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 nativitatis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006wp) [Internet].

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.

Aplin, K.P. (2008). Bulldog Rat, Rattus nativitatis. In: van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan, eds. The Mammals of Australia. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

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.

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.

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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 nativitatis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:42:22 +1000.