Flower's gerbil (Gerbillus floweri)

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Flower's gerbil fact file

Flower's gerbil description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusGerbillus (1)

Along with the rats, mice, voles, hamsters and lemmings, gerbils belong to the Muridae, the largest family of mammals (4). Flower’s gerbil is a member of the genus Gerbillus, a name which arises from a mixture of Arabic and Latin words and literally means ‘little gerbil’ (5). Flower’s gerbil is actually fairly large for a gerbil (2), with pale cinnamon to tawny coloured fur (2). Unlike the greater Egyptian gerbil (Gerbillus pyramidum), of which it was previously thought to be a subspecies, it has no black tuft of hair at the tip of the tail (5). Like all other Gerbillus species, the hind feet of Flower’s gerbil have hairy soles and the tail is usually longer than the body (4).

Size
Head-body length: 11 - 22 cm (2)
Tail length: 14 - 16 cm (2)
Weight
23 - 63 g (2) (3)
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Flower's gerbil biology

Living in hot, dry, desert areas, Flower’s gerbil is well-adapted to conserving precious water. It does this by producing small amounts of concentrated urine and by not sweating (6). However, as it does not sweat, Flower’s gerbil must be careful not to overheat, and so avoids the hot, desert sun by staying in a burrow during the day, where temperatures are cooler than those above ground (2). All gerbils live in burrows, which are easily dug in the sandy environments they inhabit and can range from a few small holes to an elaborate series of tunnels (4).

Venturing from the burrow at night, Flower’s gerbil forages for seeds, leaves, nuts and fruits, which it often stores in small chambers in the burrow (2) (4). Camel dung has also been found in these chambers, which is thought to be picked apart by the gerbil in search of seeds to eat (2).

The breeding season of Flower’s gerbil is known to be from January to March, but could extend until May (2). After a gestation period of 20 to 22 days (2), the female gives birth to a litter that may contain one to eight offspring, although four or five young is most common (4). Young Flower’s gerbils are born furless and helpless and are completely dependent on their mother as they do not open their eyes for 16 to 20 days (4).

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Flower's gerbil range

Flower’s gerbil occurs in Egypt, where it is restricted to a coastal area in the north-east of the country, stretching from the eastern edges of the Nile Delta to El Arish in the north of the Sinai Peninsula (1). A recent survey found that Flower’s gerbil was never observed further than 100 kilometres from the coast (3). It has also been recorded outside of its normal range, in Israel and Palestine (1).

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Flower's gerbil habitat

Like many gerbils, this species is found in sandy, rocky, desert-like habitats including coastal plains, which are common on the north-east coast of Egypt. Flower’s gerbil may also be found in areas with more vegetation, such as palm tree groves and areas of farmland (1).

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Flower's gerbil status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Flower's gerbil threats

Currently, there are no known major threats to Flower’s gerbil (1).

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Flower's gerbil conservation

There are currently no conservation measures in places for Flower’s gerbil, and it is not known if this species occurs in any protected areas (1).

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Authentication

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~plzfg/

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

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.
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.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Osborn, D.J. and Helmy, I. (1980) The contemporary land mammals of Egypt (including Sinai). Fieldiana Zoology, 5: 1-579.
  3. Abu Baker, M. and Patterson, B.D. (2009) Patterns in the local assembly of Egyptian rodent faunas: Areography and species combinations. Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift fur Saugetierkunde, Article in Press.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Qumsiyeh, M.B. (1996) Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, Texas.
  6. Gerbil Info (April, 2010)
    http://www.gerbil.info/html/other_gerbil_species.htm
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