Lesser Egyptian jerboa, desert jerboa
A small jumping mouse-like rodent with very large hind legs and a long tail. It spends the day in a burrow in the desert and comes out at night in search of seeds and plants.
2-3 years (5-6 in captivity).
4-20cm long, with a tail 7-30cm long.
A small mouse-like rodent with very long (2-10cm long) hind feet, which it uses for hopping, and a long bare tail to balance it. Large black eyes and rounded ears. Coat reddish brown with grey underfur and a paler belly.
North East Nigeria, South West Mauritania to Morocco and Egypt, Sudan and Somalia, Arabia to South West Iran.
Seeds and green plants.
Jerboas live in burrows in sandy areas, feeding at night on seeds, some vegetation and insects which they find by smell. Their hind feet are very large, and the bones are fused for extra strength. They also have hairs on the undersides of their feet to act as 'snowshoes' in the sand. They are able to leap 1m from a standing position and 1.5-3m forwards when at high speed. In hard times, some species hibernate in the winter or in the dry season.
Breeding takes place whenever conditions are good, and at least two litters per year are produced. Gestation is 23 days and 1-6 young are born in a nest burrow. Their eyes open after 5 weeks, and at 6 weeks they start to eat solid food. They become independent at 8-10 weeks.
Rodents date back to the Palaeocene, when they were already quite recognisable. Jerboas, specialised jumping animals, appeared in the Oligocene as the first dry plains opened up.