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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 39(1)

A review of the evidence for potential impacts of black rats (Rattus rattus) on wildlife and humans in Australia

Peter B. Banks A E and Nelika K. Hughes B C D

A School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
B Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.
C Australian Wildlife Conservancy, 33 Scenic Drive, Manly, NSW 2095, Australia.
D Present address: Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerpen, Belgium.
E Corresponding author. Email: peter.banks@sydney.edu.au

Wildlife Research 39(1) 78-88 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR11086
Submitted: 20 May 2011  Accepted: 6 November 2011   Published: 27 February 2012


 
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Abstract

The black rat (Rattus rattus) is among the world’s worst invasive species, having spread across the globe in close association with the spread of human settlement. It is the source of some of the worst diseases affecting humans and is thought to have had a devastating impact on native wildlife, especially in island ecosystems. Black rat is likely to have arrived in Australia with the first European settlers, making it among the first of many alien species to invade the continent, and it is now widespread. Yet, its impacts on local wildlife have largely been overlooked. Here, we review the potential for black rat impacts in Australia in terms of its role as a source of disease and threats to wildlife and humans. We first summarise the global evidence for black rat impacts as background to the potential threats it poses and then focus specifically on emerging evidence available for Australian systems. We found a significant gap in our understanding of the ecology of black rats and the ecological role that it plays in Australia. This is despite its role as a source of a diverse range of diseases affecting humans and wildlife and its actions as a predator and competitor of native wildlife in Australia and elsewhere.

Additional keywords: alien species, invasive species, lungworm, rodent pest, ship rat, vertebrate pests.


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