5 Adorable Nocturnal Mammals You’ve Never Heard Of
Animal photographer Traer Scott uses a portable studio named Little Black Box to create intimate portraits of elusive nocturnal animals, such as snakes, rodents, owls, and bats. Many of the species that appear in her photo book Nocturne: Creatures of the Night are under threat of habitat loss, light pollution, and poaching. Her book suggests ways to curb these threats and spotlights organizations who assist nocturnal animals. The following photographs are five little-known nocturnal mammals, alongside Scott’s commentary on the animals’ behaviors and habitats.
The charming kangaroo rat is not actually related to a kangaroo but is so named because of its bipedal anatomy and kangaroo-like hopping tendencies. In addition, kangaroo rats also have pouches, but these pouches are on the outside of their cheeks rather than on their bellies and are used for transporting seeds, not offspring. Well adapted to life in the North American desert, the kangaroo rat does not need to consume water but is able to get all of its necessary hydration from the seeds in its diet. The rats’ nocturnal lifestyle helps them to stay cool; they sleep in underground burrows during the scorching desert days, only becoming active at night, when the temperatures are lower.
Although the fennec fox is the smallest of all fox species, it boasts the largest ears, relatively speaking. Beyond making these tiny, Chihuahua-sized foxes inimitably adorable, their disproportionately huge ears serve to keep the fennec from overheating by dissipating body heat. A fennec’s ears also enhance its exceptional hearing; often these four-pound foxes are able to hear prey underground! Fennecs are found primarily in the deserts of North Africa, where their nocturnal habits help them to evade the searing desert heat.
Named for the coarse hairs on its back, which become stiff and spiny when stroked the wrong way, the spiny mouse thrives in very hot temperatures. These highly social rodents live in small family groups centered around a dominant male, but all family members help in caring for young mice. Most remarkably, the spiny mouse is the only mammal known to be capable of tissue regeneration. This little mouse can escape predators by losing patches of skin; it is then able to completely regrow that same skin, as well as fur, sweat glands, and even cartilage, without scarring, much as a lizard regrows a tail.
This tiny marsupial is actually a gliding opossum with opposable fingers and toes. Although omnivorous, sugar gliders are known for being particularly fond of sweet foods such as nectar and fruit. Often referred
to as a “pocket pet” because of its miniature size and enjoyment of hanging out in pouches, the sugar glider is a popular exotic pet. Sugar gliders can form very strong bonds with their human families, but as highly social animals they should live in pairs or small groups and must have a spacious enclosure, as well as a carefully monitored diet. These strictly nocturnal creatures will sleep curled up in a pouch during the day and romp around at night, sometimes barking or chirping when excited or frightened.
Pygmy Slow Loris
This small, tree-dwelling primate is found in the forests of Southeast Asia. The pygmy slow loris population in Vietnam faced near extinction in the 1970s and ’80s, after widespread burning, clearing, and the use of chemicals like Agent Orange during the Vietnam War caused extensive habitat loss. Wild populations continue to be threatened by hunting and habitat degradation. The pygmy loris is frequently captured and sold into the exotic pet trade in Vietnam and Cambodia, where it is also hunted for use in traditional Asian medicine. Since the pygmy slow loris is strictly nocturnal, arboreal, and native to areas with a history of political unrest, accurate population data on the species is hard to find.
Traer Scott is an award winning photographer and the bestselling author of six books. Her work has been featured in National Geographic, Life, Vogue, People, O, and dozens of other major national and international publications. Traer was the recipient of the 2008 Helen Woodward Humane Award for animal welfare activism and the 2010 Rhode Island State Council for the Arts Photography Fellowship Grant. She resides in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband, daughter, and adopted dogs.