Kilessan (CC BY-SA 3.0)
British Wildlife 34.3 December 2022

Invasions, plagues and conservation – the history of Ship Rats in Britain and Ireland

Ship, or Black, Rats are one of the world’s most invasive and ecologically damaging mammals, and were once common in some British docks and cities. Stephen Harris delves into the history of Ship Rats in Britain and Ireland, describing how they arrived here, their association with plague, and eradication efforts to remove them from islands home to breeding seabirds.

In my final year at Bristol University, I had to mount an exhibition. The only guidance was that it had to include practical and written components. I chose the history of Ship (Black) Rats Rattus rattus, and Bristol City Council agreed to let me have the bodies of any rats they caught so that I could prepare specimens of the different colour varieties (Table 1).

Natural reflections
Scroll to Top