Lesser Egyptian gerbil (Gerbillus gerbillus)

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil fact file

Lesser Egyptian gerbil description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusGerbillus (1)

The lesser Egyptian gerbil is the smallest and one of the most widespread Gerbillus species in Egypt (3) (4). The fur on its back is dappled yellow and orange, which acts as camouflage in its sandy, desert habitat, and the underparts are white (5). This tiny rodent has large eyes, ringed with white (2), a long tail with a distinguishing dark tip, and smaller ears than other Gerbillus species (3). The furred soles of the lesser Egyptian gerbil’s feet are a useful adaptation when scurrying across loose sand (2).  

Size
Total length: 20 cm (2)
Head-body length: 9 cm (2)
Weight
23 g (3)
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Lesser Egyptian gerbil biology

Like many gerbil species, the lesser Egyptian gerbil is a nocturnal mammal, spending the day in a burrow, which is typically 30 to 60 centimetres deep. The burrow provides refuge from the burning hot day temperatures, and on extremely hot days, this gerbil plugs the entrance of its burrow with sand (3). The lesser Egyptian gerbil lives in large social groups, with many individuals often sharing the same burrow (2), and it may also sometimes be found sharing its burrow with other rodents, as well as lizards and toads (6).

The lesser Egyptian gerbil feeds on seeds, leaves, buds and fruit (3), with dry seeds being the staple food (6). It searches in camel dung for undigested seeds and husks and sometimes ventures into human dwellings in search of food and shelter (2) (3).

This species’ breeding season is between January and May (3). The young are born blind and naked after a gestation period of 20 to 22 days (5), with the average litter containing between 3 and 6 young (2).

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil range

This species inhabits desert areas of North Africa, ranging from Mali in the west to Egypt in the east. It has also been recorded in Israel and Jordan (1).

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil habitat

The lesser Egyptian gerbil dwells in complex burrow structures in sandy or rocky arid regions with little undergrowth (1). It is also known to inhabit areas near to palm groves and salt marshes (3), and is often found in cultivated and urban regions, such as campsites and sandy areas between houses (3). Unlike the majority of North African gerbil species, the lesser Egyptian gerbil generally avoids coastal areas (2).

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil threats

There are currently no known major threats to the lesser Egyptian gerbil (1).

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Lesser Egyptian gerbil conservation

There are no specific conservation plans in place for this common gerbil. It is, however, found in multiple protected areas in North Africa (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

Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Barker, J. (2000) The Egyptian Gerbil. The Nibbler, Journal of the National Gerbil Society.
  3. Osborn, D.J. and Helmy, I. (1980) The contemporary land animals of Egypt (including Sinai). Fieldiana Zoology, 5: 1-579.
  4. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  5. Gerbil Information Page (April, 2010)
    http://www.gerbil.info/html/othergerbillus.htm
  6. Yunker, C.E. and Guirgus, S.S. (1969) Studies of rodent burrows and their ectoparasites in the Egyptian desert, 1: Environment and microenvironment: some factors influencing acarine distribution. The Journal of the Egyptian Public Health Association, 44(5): 498-542.
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Image credit

Lesser Egyptian gerbil feeding  
Lesser Egyptian gerbil feeding

© Robert Maier / Animals Animals

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