Sunday, December 18, 2011

Creature Feature: (Egyptian) Jerboa.

And now for something completely different:

Cute, isn't it? Coming from roughly the same region as several adorable geckos, jerboas are among the many cute animals adapted to the deserts of the Middle East and Africa. The family containing jerboas, Dipodidae, contains six subfamilies and several genera of cute, hopping rodents. They eat tubers and  The jerboa in the video looks like an Egyptian jerboa, so we shall settle on those for tonight. Just bear in mind that there are plenty of other varieties.

Jerboas are, in a nutshell, bipedal mice that live in desert areas. They are nocturnal and spend the sweltering days and months in burrows. During the hottest months, they aestivate (i.e. hibernate), not leaving their more complex burrow systems at all. These burrows can get up to 2.5 meters underground and usually have food storage and a nesting chamber.

When these little mice are active, however, they are VERY active. Jerboas spring about like bipedal mice on coffee. These little rodents can leap up to 3 meters to get away from predators or zig-zag to confuse them. Their tails allow for a very good sense of, who can resist a rodent with a lion-like tuft on its tail? Everything about jerboas is not only functional, but adorable.

Oh, and by the way, being truly bipedal is rare in mammals. Even humans are not fully adapted to walking on two legs. Jerboas, however, are. Just look at the proportions on this jerboa skeleton; those legs are even longer, proportionately, than a kangaroo's! They can jump and walk, too! (Am I the only one thinking that giant rodent mounts could possibly dethrone the ratite mounts we're used to? You're DONE, chocobos!)

Although both the Lesser and Greater Egyptian Jerboas are probably pretty similar, the Lesser Egyptian Jerboa (Jaculus jaculus) is the king of desert survival. I keep saying, over and over, that desert animals need very little water. The Lesser Egyptian jerboa does not drink. Period. Every drop of water it needs comes from its food. It laughs at us for not only being not-quite-bipeds, but also needing that weird thing called water many times a day. Yeah, rodents will rule the world along with cockroaches and snakes.

But would you love it if it ruled the world, world, world?

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