143. Jerboa

Jerboas are hopping desert rodents. They are found in the hot deserts in Asia and North America.They resemble mice in general appearance.

They have long hind legs suitable for hopping. The long tufted tail may be of help in balancing. The short fore legs are not used in locomotion. The fore legs are used to hold food while eating. They have long, soft, silky fur.

Some of them eat seeds and plant materials while the other eat insects. Some of them are omnivorous. “Long eared jerboas” have disproportionately large ears.

Jerboas can hop considerable lengths, compared to their size. They need this ability to escape predators and to travel long distances in search of food.

Jerboas have similar set of adaptations to desert lives as the hopping mice of Australia and the Kangaroo rats of North America, even though they are not related.

Jerboas are nocturnal and shelter in burrows during the hot day time. They seem to have shelters at different depths for different purposes.

Temporary burrows help them to escape from the predators. These are just plain tubes at a depth of 10 to 20 c.m. These are neither sealed nor concealed nor camouflaged.

Permanent burrows deeper down are well hidden and sealed with a sand plug to keep off the heat and to retain the moisture. These may have many entrances! These are elaborate structures with nesting chambers.

Winter burrows are further down at a depth of 40 to 70 c.m below the ground level. They serve as food chambers.

Finally the hibernation chambers at a depth of 1.5 to 2.5 meters below ground level, ensure perfect safety while the rodents hibernate!

“Lesser Egyptian Jerboa” lives in the most hostile deserts. It does not drink at all. The food provides it with enough moisture for its survival. It is believed to be able to hop a full 3 meters to escape the predators and can also jump in a zigzag fashion to escape the enemy!

Visalakshi Ramani


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