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 Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzp) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzq) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
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].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus (McDonald, P., 2012a) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Endangered (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list)
WA: Listed as Critically Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Critically Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Zyzomys pedunculatus [68]
Family Muridae:Rodentia:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Waite,1896)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

The Central Rock-rat is a small rodent with yellow-brown fur above and cream to white fur underneath. Its body grows to 14 cm long and its thick tail grows to 14 cm long. The tail is densely furred and has a distinctive tuft at the tip (Strahan 1998). Adults weigh 70–120 g, are stocky in appearance and have a distinct aquiline nose (a 'Roman nose' with a prominent bridge) (McDonald 2012a).

The Central Rock-rat has irruptive demography where population density increases following rainfall events. No records of the Central Rock-rat were made between 1960 and 1996, and the species was presumed extinct (Nano 2008; Wurst 1990). Since 1996, all collections have been made along a 77 km strip of the West MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory (NT).

Between 1996 and 2002, 13 sites were recorded in MacDonnell National Park (NP) and one on the adjacent Milton Park pastoral lease (McDonald 2012a). During this period, sites where the species had previously been recorded outside of West MacDonnell Ranges were not surveyed (Nano 2008). The species was frequently trapped around Ormiston Gorge in 2000-01, but has not been trapped there since (Edwards 2012; McDonald 2012a).

Since 2002, following drought conditions and wildfires across the MacDonnell Ranges, three locations have been confirmed: four animals near the summit of Mt Sonder (in 2010), five animals at four new sites on Mt Giles (in 2011) (McDonald 2012a; McDonald et al. 2013) and Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Land Trust (Lo 2013).

Historically, specimens were taken from Illamurta (James Range) and Alice Springs in the 1890s, Hugh Creek in 1935, Napperby Hills in 1950, The Granites (Tanami Desert) in 1952, Davenport Range in 1953 and at Haast's Bluff settlement (West MacDonnell Ranges) in 1960 (McDonald 2012a). Trapping of sites at The Granites and in the Davenport Ranges was conducted by the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory between 1981-84 without success. An unconfirmed sighting of the Central Rock-rat was made on the north side of Mt Barkly in 1962, but subsequent trapping by Begg and Martin (see Wurst 1990) was unsuccessful (Lee 1995). Subfossils (unfossilised material) have been collected widely across central Western Australia and the NT, especially in the Cape Range area (Baynes & Baird 1992; Baynes & Jones 1993).

The Central Rock-rat is known from the West MacDonnell NP and was formerly known from Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP.

During drier periods (e.g. in 2010–11), the Central Rock-rat has been recorded on high altitude (>1200 m above sea level), rugged quartzite peaks (McDonald 2012a). The rugged terrain and moist gullies of the West MacDonnell Ranges may provide refuge for the species during dry periods (Nano 2008).

During irruptive periods, the species is found in a range of habitat in West MacDonnell NP, including tussock and hummock grassland with sparse shrub layers and less fire-tolerant shrubs, or low open woodland (Nano 2008; McDonald 2012a). In these periods it occurs on a broad range of geology, including quartzite, limestone, granite and sandstone rock types, and on a range of topography ridge tops, cliffs, scree slopes, hills and valley floors. Previous habitat descriptions were narrow, suggesting the species was restricted to steep slopes with south-easterly aspects, stony ground with Callitris spp., Acacia spp., tussock grass and spinifex (Triodia spp.) (Cole & Woinarski 2000).

In the wild, juveniles have been captured in March, April, July and November (Edwards 2012; Nano 2008). This ability to breed throughout the year may allow the Central Rock-rat to respond more rapidly to rainfall events compared to other arid zone species (Edwards 2012). In captivity, litters of one to four every three months are reported (Brisbane in Cole 1999).

The Central Rock-rat is primarily granivorous, especially during irruptive periods (Edwards 2012a; Nano et al. 2003). Seeds (1-10 mm in size) of shrubs, forbs and grasses form the main component of the diet with leaf material of secondary importance. As seed availability declines, plants stems are consumed (Edwards 2012a). Insects are a minor component of the diet (Jefferys in Cole 1999). The majority of the plant species identified in the diet are regarded as fire-sensitive species. The most commonly consumed seeds were from Sida spp., Glycine canescens and Solanum spp. (Nano et al. 2003).

During dry periods, the diet of the Mt Sonder population was primarily of seed of the Mt Sonder Bearded-heath (Leucopogon sonderensis), an endemic to the MacDonnell Ranges that is largely restricted to fire refuge sites (McDonald 2012a).

The Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals (DSEWPaC 2011j) includes survey design principles for planning a mammal survey, and includes recommendations for survey methods for the Central Rock-rat and habitat that it occurs in (DSEWPaC 2011j).

Potential threats include predation by the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo), the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the Cat (Felis catus), inappropriate fire regimes that can result in large uncontrolled wildfires, and grazing by livestock and feral herbivores (Cole 1999; McDonald 2012a).

The following actions are land management practices are recommended for the Central Rock-rat (Crowley & Ziembicki 2009):

  • maintain ground layer
  • control pest animals
  • graze moderately and periodically spell country from grazing
  • manage fire.

The Central Land Council - Land Management Unit (NT) received $17 360 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2003–04 for a survey of the the Central Rock-rat population and suitable habitat, the building of survey skills amongst participating community members.

Management documents for this species are at the start of the profile.

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
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Negative impact from animals Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001 (Cole, J., 1999) [Recovery Plan].

Baynes, A. & B. Jones (1993). The mammals of Cape Range peninsula, north-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No 45. Page(s) 207-225.

Baynes, A. & R.F. Baird (1992). The original mammal fauna and some information on the original bird fauna of Uluru National Park, Northern Territory. Rangeland Journal. 14:92-106.

Cole, J. (1999). Recovery Plan for the Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus - 2000-2001. [Online]. NT PWC. Available from:

Cole, J.R. & J.C.Z. Woinarski (2000). Rodents of the arid Northern Territory: conservation status and distribution. Wildlife Research. 27:437-449.

Crowley, G. & M. Ziembicki (2009). Management Guidelines for Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus. [Online]. Available from:

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from:

Edwards, G.P. (2012). Relative abundance of the central rock-rat, the desert mouse and the fat-tailed pseudoantechinus at Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, Northern Territory. Australian Mammalogy. online. [Online]. Available from:

Edwards, G.P. (2012a). Temporal analysis of the diet of the central rock-rat. Australian Mammalogy. online. doi:10.1071/AM12008.

Lee, A.K. (1995). The Action Plan for Australian Rodents. Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Endangered Species Program.

Lo, H-Y (2013). Central rock rat back from the brink. Australian Geographic. 26 Sept. [Online]. Available from:

McDonald, P. (2012a). Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Central Rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus. [Online]. Available from:

McDonald, P.J., C.R. Pavey, K. Knights, D. Grantham, S.J. Ward & C.E.M. Nano (2013). Extant population of the Critically Endangered central rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus located in the Northern territory, Australia. Oryx. 47(2):303-6.

Nano, T. (2008). Central rock-rat Zyzomys pedunculatus. In: van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan , eds. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 658-660. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Strahan, R., ed. (1998). The Mammals of Australia, Third Edition. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum and Reed New Holland.

Wurst, D. (1990). Report on the survey for the Central Rock-rat, Zyzomys pedunculatus in the Alice Springs region. Project (Endangered Species Program (Australia)). 6. Darwin: Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.

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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). Zyzomys pedunculatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 19:27:16 +1000.