giant pouched rat, terrestrial African rodent of the genus Cricetomys. Found in a wide variety of habitats, including farmland, in sub-Saharan Africa north of South Africa, giant pouched rats resemble a very large house rat, to which they is not closely related. They have large cheek pouches like those of the hamsters, which they use for transporting foraged food back to the burrow, and have gray to brown fur with lighter underparts and a long scaly tail. They are largely nocturnal and omnivorous, feeding on vegetation and insects and other small invertebrates, but they favor palm nuts. The largest, the Gambian, or African giant, pouched rat, may reach 3 ft (90 cm) in length, half of which is the tail, and weigh up to 6.5 lb (3 kg). Gambian pouched rats, which have a keen sense of smell, have been trained to work with human handlers to detect land mines and identify tuberculosis in sputum samples. Giant pouched rats are hunted for food in Africa, and have been kept as pets in Europe and North America. Giant pouched rats are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Nesomyidae.
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