Arabian spiny mouse (Acomys dimidiatus)
|Synonyms:||Acomys cahirinus dimidiatus, Acomys flavidus, Mus dimidiatus|
|Size||Head-body length: 7 – 17.5 cm (2)|
Tail length: 4.2 – 12.5 cm (2)
|Weight||11 – 90 g (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Named for the fur on its back which, when stroked against the direction of the hair follicles, becomes coarse and spine-like (2), the Arabian spiny mouse belongs to the genus Acomys, a name which arises from two Greek words: ‘Akoke’ meaning sharp point and ‘mus’ meaning mouse (3). It is thought that this ‘spiny’ fur provides this tiny mouse with some form of protection against predators. Spiny mice also have long, slender tails, which appear naked but on closer inspection have short bristles (2). The Arabian spiny mouse has dark tan fur, with the tips of the hairs tinted grey in adults (2).There is some debate as to whether the Arabian spiny mouse is a species in its own right or rather a subspecies of the Egyptian spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus),which has golden brown fur (2).
The Arabian spiny mouse is found in south-western parts of Asia and north-eastern Africa (1).
This species lives in semi-arid or dry habitats including rocky and hilly areas, dry deciduous forest and scrub forests. It has also been found in agricultural land and even houses (1).
Spiny mice tend to live in large family groups and are considered to be highly sociable. The diet of the Arabian spiny mouse consists primarily of seeds, but it will also occasionally feed on grasses and insects (4). These mammals are nocturnal, the cooler desert night time temperatures offering a more comfortable environment in which to search for food (2) (5).
Most information regarding reproduction in spiny mice has been discovered through studies carried out in captivity, as they can be hard to locate and study in the wild (2). Females give birth to a litter of up to five young following an approximate six week gestation period (3), and it is not unknown for one female to help another with tasks such as cleaning and nursing (5). The young are weaned after two weeks and may reach sexual maturity within two months (5). Spiny mice have a life expectancy of around five years in captivity, but in the wild this may be reduced to around three years (2).
As well as the spiny fur, which can act as a deterrent to potential predators, the Arabian spiny mouse can easily shed its tail, either whole or in part, with no great impact on the mouse, a remarkable feature that can aid the mouse’s escape from a predator (2).
There are no known significant threats to this species, which is currently considered to not be at risk of extinction (1).
The Arabian spiny mouse is thought to be present in a number of protected areas across its range, such as Ein Gedi Nature Reserve in Israel (1), but there are currently no known specific conservation actions in place for this species as it is not considered threatened at this time.
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- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
- Nowak, R.M. (1999). Walker’s Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
Chester Zoo (November, 2009)
- Varty, N. (1990) Ecology of the small mammals in the riverine forests of the Jubba Valley, southern Somalia. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 6(2): 179–189.
Bristol Zoo (November, 2009)