Buxton's jird (Meriones sacramenti)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusMeriones (1)
SizeBody length: 14 - 19 cm (2)
Tail length: 11 - 17 cm (2)

The Buxton's jird is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Buxton’s jird (Meriones sacramenti) is one of 16 species in the genus Meriones (3), a group of relatively large, rat-like rodents (2) (3). This species is named for the British hunter and conservationist Sir Edward North Buxton, a founder of the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire, which has since grown to become the prominent conservation organisation Flora and Fauna International (4) (5).

Buxton’s jird has dark cinnamon-brown fur and a conspicuous black brushy tail (2). As in other jirds, the pelage of Buxton’s jird is fairly long, soft and dense on the body, while the fur on the tail is short near the base and becomes progressively longer towards the tip (3). In most Meriones species the sides of the body are generally lighter than the back, and there are often lighter areas around the face. The underparts are usually white, pale yellowish, buff or pale grey (3). The feet of Buxton’s jird are pale, with strong, pale claws (2).

Jirds typically have narrow, well-developed ears and a long tail which measures almost the same as the head-body length. Most species have slightly elongated hind legs for leaping (3). Buxton’s jird has a more robust and angular skull than other Meriones species (2).

Most jirds have several vocalisations and many species also appear to communicate by thumping their hind feet (3).

Buxton’s jird is the only mammal endemic to Israel (6). It has a small range in Israel, where it is found in the northern Negev desert and on the coastal plain south of the Yargon River. It is also found in northern Sinai and Palestine (1) (2) (7) (8).

An inhabitant of arid, sandy environments, Buxton’s jird is found primarily in coastal dunes with fairly limited vegetation (1) (2) (3).

This species is known to inhabit clay and sandy desert areas, as well as bush country, arid steppe and low plains. Buxton’s jird has also been observed in cultivated fields, grassland and mountain valleys (1) (3).

Buxton’s jird spends most of its time in underground burrows (1) (3). Species in the genus Meriones dig their burrow in soft soil (1) (3), and the complexity of the burrow can vary greatly within and between different species (3). Burrows may be built several metres underground, with multiple entrances and a system of complex, interlinking tunnels and galleries, while others are located at much shallower depths and have fewer entrances and tunnels. The burrow usually has several food storage chambers which are often positioned near to the surface, as well as one or more nest chambers deeper underground (3).

The burrow is usually home to a mated pair and their most recent litter. Despite being fairly territorial and aggressive towards unknown intruders, jirds will usually tolerate family members, and some species may even sometimes share the burrow with another family (3).

There is very little specific information available on the breeding biology of Buxton’s jird. However, based on the behaviour of other Meriones species in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, it is likely that breeding takes place throughout the year, with peaks in breeding activity from late winter to early autumn. Females of most species in the genus Meriones produce two to three litters each year. Gestation is thought to last for between 20 and 31 days in most species, and litter sizes of 1 to 12 young have been reported. Buxton’s jird gives birth to the young in a nest, which is usually composed of dried vegetation (3).

Jirds are not thought to hibernate, although some species are known enter torpor, while others remain underground throughout the winter and live entirely off stored food (3). It is likely that the diet of Buxton’s jird is similar to most other species in the genus, consisting mainly of a variety of green vegetation, roots, bulbs, seeds, cereals, fruits and insects (1) (3). Buxton’s jird may eat more leaves than other Meriones species (1).

Habitat loss is a major threat to Buxton’s jird. Urbanisation in the eastern parts of this species’ range is rapidly reducing the available habitat, while land conservation to agriculture has also caused extensive habitat loss, particularly in southern Israel (1).

The northern coastal plain of Israel has reduced by more than half since the mid-1900s, and the expanding population and increasing development in the region continue to place increased pressure on the coastal habitats of Buxton’s jird (6). 

Although Buxton’s jird is not the target of any known specific conservation measures, it does occur in a number of protected areas in southern Israel which may afford it some level of protection (1).

Find out more about Buxton’s jird and other species in the genus Meriones:

Find out more about the work of Flora and Fauna International:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Qumsiyeh, M.B. (1996) Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Texas.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  4. Flora and Fauna International (September, 2011)
    http://www.fauna-flora.org/
  5. Beolens, B., Watkins, M. and Grayson. M. (2009) The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. 
  6. Kutiel, P. (2001) Conservation and management of the Mediterranean coastal sand dunes in Israel. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 7: 183-192.
  7. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Available at:
    http://www.bucknell.edu/MSW3/
  8. Nader, I.A. (1985) The status of rodents in the western Asian region. In: Lidicker Jr, W.Z. (Ed.) Rodents. A World Survey of Species of Conservation Concern. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.