Golden spiny mouse (Acomys russatus)

Synonyms: Acomys lewisi
GenusAcomys (1)
SizeTotal length: 14.6 - 20.3 cm (2)
Tail length: 5.6 - 8.1 cm (2)
Average male weight: 44.1 g (3)
Average female weight: 41 g (3)

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

As its name suggests, the golden spiny mouse is covered in prickly, inflexible, coarse fur (2); this spiny coat is thought to protect the mouse from predation (4). It is a small and stocky mouse (2), with a pointed snout (5), large, erect ears, and a brittle, furless, scaly tail (4). Golden, orange-reddish fur covers the upperparts and head, the flanks are yellow, and the underside is pale. The legs are grey and the feet are pale with black soles, and there are small, distinctive white spots below the eyes (2). Male golden spiny mice tend to be heavier than females (3).

The golden spiny mouse is native to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen (1), occurring up to 2,642 metres above sea level (6). Within Egypt, it is rare relative to other Acomys species, but reports of its demise in mainland Egypt (1) seem to be premature and undocumented (7).

The golden spiny mouse lives in extremely arid, rocky areas, such as the edge of wadis (dry riverbeds), the base of jebels (hills of sand and rock), and at mountain summits (1). It normally resides in rocky crevices, cracks in soil, the burrows of other rodents, and old termite mounds (4).

The gregarious golden spiny mouse often lives in groups (4) and is most active during the day. It reproduces continuously throughout the year, with minimal seasonal changes in breeding. The gestation period of the golden spiny mouse is relatively long compared to other mice, lasting five to six weeks, after which the female gives birth to between one and five offspring. The young are born well developed and are often able to see at birth or within a few days (6). The golden spiny mouse reaches sexual maturity at two to three months (4), and has an average lifespan of approximately three years, although some individuals may live for up to five years (6).

The golden spiny mouse is an omnivorous species, feeding mainly on plant material, such as grains and grasses (4), but also taking insects. It requires a fairly significant water intake due to its hot, arid habitat, and is adapted to obtain water from the sap of desert plants. Like other spiny mice, this mouse also has the ability to concentrate its urine, in order to conserve precious water (6).

The golden spiny mouse is sometimes considered a human health risk, as it carries fleas that host the organism Rickettsia, which causes typhus, and it is also considered by some to be an agricultural pest as it consumes seeds and destroys certain crops (1), and could be persecuted as a result. Golden spiny mouse populations appear to fluctuate, as with other mice, but are relatively stable over the longer term (4).

The golden spiny mouse is found in many protected areas throughout its range (1), but due to the lack of information on the threats this species may face, specific conservation measures are currently lacking. A survey of the status of the golden spiny mouse is needed in mainland Egypt (1).

Checked (27/09/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List  (March, 2010)
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York.
  3. Shargal, E., Kronfeld-Schor, N. and Dayan, T. (2000) Population biology and spatial relationships of coexisting spiny mice (Acomys) in Israel. Journal of Mammalogy, 81: 1046-1052.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walkers Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
  6.  Lee Jr, T.E., Watkins III, J.F. and Cash, C.G. (1998) Acomys russatus. Mammalian Species, 590: 1-4.
  7. Gilbert, F. (2010) Pers. comm.