The only member of the maned
or crested rat family
, it can be found only in eastern Africa
. It is most closely related to guinea pigs
, neither of which are really very close relatives. They usually have the appearance of a shaggy
, overgrown guinea pig, being from two to three times the size. Like guinea pigs, they have a blotchy white / brown / black fur coloration, often with a slight gray tint.
They get their name from the spiky rows of hairs which start on their heads and extend along their backs to their mid-tail. These hairs can be raised like a porcupine's, exposing scent glands; in this state the lophiomys seems much like a cross between a skunk, porcupine, and mohawked guinea pig. They also have several other features found in no other rodents: a multi-chambered stomach similar to a cow's, and bony skull ridges along the temporal fossa.
Primarily a nocturnal animal, the lophiomys lives in burrows and lives mostly off of leaves and tender branches, dining on them in a posture similar to a squirrel's eating posture. It can also climb trees quite well, albiet very slowly. The lophiomys' only vocalisation is sort of a snort followed by a howl -- an outgrike of sorts, if you will.
While researching this node, Altavista offered to let me both "Shop the web for lophiomys" and "Search for lophiomys in my local yellow pages". No thanks, I'll pass on the pet rats. Especially the ones with telephones.