The secret life of the city rat: a review of the ecology of urban Norway and black rats (Rattus norvegicus and Rattus rattus)

Abstract

Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and black rats (Rattus rattus) are among the most prolific and widespread urban pest species in the world. Yet despite their ubiquity, a unified understanding of the ecology of these species in urban habitats eludes us. A comprehensive understanding of urban rat ecology is important for managing rat populations and mitigating the harmful effects that they may have on urban ecosystems (e.g., structural damage, food contamination, and disease spread). The objective of this systematic review and narrative synthesis is to collate, compare, and contrast data from the published literature regarding the ecology of Norway and black rats in urban centers. Themes emerging from the synthesis process, and discussed in detail, include population dynamics, behavior, movement, and environmental influences on rat populations.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dr. Darin Bennett for his contributions to the manuscript. This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP – 119530 and CGV-104833), the City of Vancouver, the BC Centre for Disease Control, and the Urban Health Research Initiative.

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Correspondence to Alice Y. T. Feng.

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Feng, A.Y.T., Himsworth, C.G. The secret life of the city rat: a review of the ecology of urban Norway and black rats (Rattus norvegicus and Rattus rattus). Urban Ecosyst 17, 149–162 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-013-0305-4

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Keywords

  • Ecology
  • Rat
  • Rattus
  • Urban
  • Review