Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus)

Also known as: greater Wilfred's mouse, northeast African spiny mouse
Synonyms: Acomys chudeaui
GenusAcomys (1)

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

The scientific name of this species, Acomys, is thought to be derived from the Greek word ‘acro’ meaning ‘point’, or ‘akanthos’ meaning ‘spine’, and refers to the spiny hairs that characterise the Acomys genus (2). The Cairo spiny mouse is born with soft, grey fur which is later followed, around the time of weaning, by a second growth of dense, brown spines over much of the back (3). The soles of the feet are pale (4), and, like all spiny mice, this species has a pointed snout; large, erect ears; bright, prominent eyes; and a mostly furless, scaly tail (5).

Found in northern Africa, the Cairo spiny mouse occurs in Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and the Western Sahara (1).

The Cairo spiny mouse inhabits rocky outcrops, cliffs and canyons, and gravel plains with low shrubs. In some areas, the Cairo spiny mouse may occupy crevices in buildings (1).

Little is known about the social behaviour of the Cairo spiny mouse, but it is thought to live in social groups (3). It is well adapted to survive in arid conditions and can reduce urine production by up to 90 percent to conserve water when necessary (3). It is a largely nocturnal animal and eats a varied diet, including insects, snails and seeds (3). Curiously, in Egypt this species has been reported to also feed on the dried flesh and bone marrow of mummified humans (6).

Reproduction in the Cairo spiny mouse is continuous; that is, there is no particular breeding season (3). Information on the breeding biology of the Cairo spiny mouse is scant, but it is likely to be similar to the closely related  golden spiny mouse (Acomys russatus), which gives birth to litters of one to five young, each weighing up to seven grams (2). The gestation period of the Cairo spiny mouse is 39 days (3). The young, which are well-developed at birth, are probably weaned after about two weeks and reach maturity at about two to three months (2) (6). Spiny mice typically live for around three years (6).

There are not known to be any major threats to the Cairo spiny mouse (1).

There are currently no conservation measures in place to protect this species (1).

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

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Lee Jr, T.E., Watkins III, J.F. and Cash, C.G. (1998) Acomys russatus. Mammalian Species, 590: 1-4.
  3. Brunjes, P.C. (1990) The precocial mouse, Acomys cahirinus. Psychobiology, 18(3): 339-350.
  4. Qumsiyeh, M. (1996) Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Texas.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  6. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.