Bushy-tailed jird (Sekeetamys calurus)

GenusSekeetamys (1)
SizeHead-body length: 10 - 12.5 cm (2)
Tail length: 6 - 11 cm (2)
Average weight: 77.3 g (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The timid bushy-tailed jird is a small, gerbil-like mammal with a slender body, large eyes and, as the common name suggests, a thick and fluffy covering of fine hairs on the tail. The bushy tail is the most striking feature, having greyish or black fur along most of its length, except for the white tip (2) (4). The body of the bushy-tailed jird is brownish-yellow and speckled with black on the upperparts, paler on the flanks, and white on the underside (4). With its slender limbs and long hind feet (4), the bushy-tailed jird is a proficient, agile climber in its rocky habitat (2).

The bushy-tailed jird is distributed on the highlands surrounding the Red Sea, in north-eastern Sudan, eastern Egypt, including the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel, southern Jordan, and western Saudi Arabia (1) (5).

The bushy-tailed jird inhabits rocky, hot, arid deserts where it rests during the day in a burrow under large rocks or a den amongst boulders (1) (4). It is able to tolerate extreme temperatures, such as in Sinai, where mountain-dwelling populations can experience snow during the winter and soaring temperatures during the summer (3) (6).

The bushy-tailed jird is well adapted to survive and reproduce in its harsh, desert environment where food and water availability are quite unpredictable. Its diet mainly consists of spiders and insects, such as beetles and crickets, but it will also eat seeds and vegetation (7). It is able to extract water from plant material, which enables it to survive periods of drought (3). It also conserves this precious water by producing dry faeces and small amounts of concentrated urine (8). Water loss is further minimized by being nocturnal, therefore avoiding the heat of the day (3). When there is an abundance of food after the wet season, the bushy-tailed jird stores most of the food it eats as fat, in preparation for entering hibernation (8).

Although there are no records of this species’ reproductive biology in the wild (9), in captivity, female bushy-tailed jirds have been known to give birth throughout the year, to litters containing a maximum of six young. A captive individual lived five years and five months (2).

Although a naturally rare species, there are not known to be any major threats to the bushy-tailed jird at present (1).

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the bushy-tailed jird (1). It has been recommended that further research into this species’ distribution, ecology and reproduction should be undertaken (1), which would help inform any conservation measures that may be needed in the future.

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Haim, A. (1996) Food and energy intake, non-shivering thermogenesis and daily rhythm of body temperature in the bushy-tailed gerbil Sekeetamys calurus: the role of photoperiod manipulations. Journal of Thermoregulatory Biology, 21: 37-42.
  4. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo. 
  5. Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. (1991) The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum Publication, Kent.
  6. Haim, A. and Izhaki, I. (1995) Comparative physiology of thermoregulation in rodents: adaptations to arid and mesic environments. Journal of Arid Environments, 31: 431-440.
  7. Mares, M.A. (1999) Encyclopedia of Deserts. Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman.
  8. Palgi, N. and Haim, A. (2003) Thermoregulatory and osmoregulatory responses to dehydration in the bushy-tailed gerbil Sekeetamys calurus. Journal of Arid Environments, 55: 727-736.
  9. Qumsiyeh, M.B. (1996) Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Texas.