Fawn hopping mouse (Notomys cervinus)

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Fawn hopping mouse fact file

Fawn hopping mouse description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusNotomys (1)

An inhabitant of the arid Australian outback, the fawn hopping mouse (Notomys cervinus), also known as the ‘ooarri’ (3), has elongated hind legs and feet on which it hops gracefully and rapidly (4). This species has a small head with long ears and great, bulging, black eyes, and its snout bears whiskers which can reach up to a remarkable 6.5 centimetres long (2). The fur on the back ranges from fawn with a pinkish hue to grey in colour, whereas the fur on the abdomen is white (2). The tail is longer than the body and ends in a tuft of dark hairs (2).

The adult male fawn hopping mouse possesses a glandular area of raised and hairless skin on the chest (2). This patch of skin, which is assumed to be used in scent-marking (5), is also evident in the female during periods of pregnancy and lactation (3).

The fawn hopping mouse may sometimes be confused with the closely related dusky hopping mouse (Notomys fuscus) and spinifex hopping mouse (Notomys alexis). However, the fawn hopping mouse can be distinguished by its lack of a throat pouch (2).

Size
Head-body length: 9.5 - 12 cm (2)
Tail length: 12 - 16 cm (2)
Weight
30 - 50 g (2)
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Fawn hopping mouse biology

The nocturnal fawn hopping mouse tends to live in family groups, usually comprising two to four individuals (2). During the day, it dwells in burrows which measure up to one metre deep and have between one and three entrances (2). At night, the fawn hopping mouse ventures out to forage. Seeds are the primary component of the fawn hopping mouse’s diet, but it will also eat small pieces of vegetation, as well as insects (2). When travelling rapidly, the fawn hopping mouse hops on its hind feet, but when travelling slowly it moves rather awkwardly on all fours (4).

Like other members of the Notomys genus, the fawn hopping mouse does not need to drink water, an incredibly useful adaptation in its harsh, arid habitat. Instead, this species has the ability to turn some of the carbohydrate obtained from seeds into water, and is able to reduce the amount of water lost in its urine and faeces (6).

The fawn hopping mouse will only breed when the conditions are suitable (2), often resulting in great fluctuations in the population size (1). Females give birth to between one and five individuals after gestation period of 38 days (1) (4). The young, which are born in a nest chamber lined with leaves and other plant material (4), weigh just 2 to 4 grams at birth, and do not open their eyes until 18 to 28 days old. The young cling to their mother’s nipples and are carried about in this manner until they are weaned at around one month old (7).

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Fawn hopping mouse range

The fawn hopping mouse is endemic to Australia, where it is sparsely distributed in the Lake Eyre basin, in north-east South Australia and south-west Queensland. It has also been recorded from the Northern Territory, although it is unclear whether it still occurs there as it was not found during intensive surveys in 2004 (2).

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Fawn hopping mouse habitat

The fawn hopping mouse inhabits gibber plains with low chenopods and short-lived plants. It may also venture onto adjacent claypans (2) (3).

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Fawn hopping mouse status

The fawn hopping mouse is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Fawn hopping mouse threats

Although no major widespread threats to the fawn hopping mouse have been identified, its numbers are believed to be decreasing (1). Possible reasons for this decline include habitat degradation, predation by introduced cats and foxes and competition with introduced herbivorous cattle and rabbits (2).

Habitat degradation can be caused by feral ungulates trampling the ground in which the fawn hopping mouse burrows, leaving the burrows unstable and vulnerable to wind and water erosion (1).

The effect of climate change has the potential to greatly threaten this species in the future. Global warming and the resultant reduction in rainfall may reduce productivity in the vegetation, which provides food and suitable burrowing habitat (1).

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Fawn hopping mouse conservation

There are currently no specific measures in place to conserve the fawn hopping mouse. However, some of its habitat falls within the Ethabuka Reserve and the Diamantina Lakes National Park (1). Whilst these reserves protect populations of fawn hopping mouse in the north of the range, those in the south of the range still require protection (1).

Fawn hopping mouse populations need to be monitored, and studies need to be undertaken into the effects of predators, competitors and lower levels of rainfall (1).

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Find out more

Learn about conservation in Australia:

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Authentication

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:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Chenopods
Any plant in the genus Chenopodium (known as the goosefoots), which includes spinach, beets and pigweed.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Feral
Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
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.
Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Gibber plains
Stony desert consisting of many closely packed and sometimes interlocking fragments of rock.
Glandular
Functioning as a gland - an organ that makes and secretes substances used by the body.
Herbivorous
Having a diet that comprises only vegetable matter.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Ungulates
A general term for mammals with hooves. The term refers to a range of animals, including sheep, antelopes, cattle, pigs and deer.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Pavey, C. (2006) Threatened Species of the Northern Territory: Fawn Hopping-mouse, Notomys cervinus. Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Northern Territory Government. Available at:
    http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/threatened/pdf/mammals/fawn_hoppingmouse_en.pdf
  3. Ehmann, H. and Watson, M. (2008) Wilkinti or Dusky Hopping Mouse and Ooarri or Fawn Hopping Mouse Fact Sheet. South Australia Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board, South Australia. Available at:
    http://www.saalnrm.sa.gov.au/PublicationsResources/FactsheetsandBrochures.aspx
  4. Breed, B. and Ford, F. (2007) Native Mice and Rats. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  5. Watts, C.H.S. and Kemper, C.M. (1989) Muridae. In: Walton, D.W. and Richardson, B.J. (Eds.) Fauna of Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  6. Watts, C.H.S. (1974) The native rodents of Australia: a personal view. Australian Mammology, 1(2): 109-116.
  7. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
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Image credit

Fawn hopping mouse feeding  
Fawn hopping mouse feeding

© Peter D Canty

Peter Canty
cantypd@bigpond.com

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