Lesser short-tailed gerbil (Gerbillus simoni)

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Lesser short-tailed gerbil fact file

Lesser short-tailed gerbil description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusGerbillus (1)

The appropriately named lesser short-tailed gerbil is distinguished from other Gerbillus species by the shorter tail; while all other Gerbillus species have tails significantly longer than the head and body length, the tail of the lesser short-tailed gerbil is, at most, only slightly longer than the head and body (3). The tail is dark on the upperparts and white below, with an indistinct tuft at the tip. The soft, dense fur on the body is yellowish-brown on the upperparts, blending to yellow on the flanks and white on the underside (3). All gerbils possess long hind legs and short front legs (4), but, unlike some other gerbils, the soles of the lesser short-tailed gerbil’s feet are naked (5). All Gerbillus species also have large eyes and ears, hinting at their nocturnal lifestyle, and whitish patches on the rump, which may allow other gerbils to recognise them in the dark (3) (4).

Synonyms
Dipodillus simoni.
Size
Total length: up to 19 cm (2)
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Lesser short-tailed gerbil biology

Although there is little information available specifically on the biology of the lesser short-tailed gerbil, it is likely to be similar to closely related species. Gerbillus species live in simple burrows, where the air is generally more humid than outside, which helps gerbils conserve moisture in arid habitats (4). Other adaptations that allow these gerbils to live in areas where water is scarce include producing very concentrated urine and dry faeces, in order to conserve water, and being active only at night (3). This not only allows gerbils to avoid the hot sun, but also means they feed at night when dew accumulates on the food, thereby increasing their water intake (4).

Gerbils typically have a diet of grass seeds, stems and roots, fallen fruits and nuts, and some insects (3) (4). There have been reports of some gerbils being attracted to grass fires, probably to feed on insects fleeing the area (4). Small carnivores, owls and snakes are all possible predators of gerbils (4).

Gerbils are born blind and hairless after a gestation period of around three weeks (4). The mother creates a nest in the burrow, lining it with fur from her belly (4). The young begin to grow fur a week after birth, and after two or three weeks the eyes open and teeth break through (4).           

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Lesser short-tailed gerbil range

The lesser short-tailed gerbil is native to Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia (1) (6).

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Lesser short-tailed gerbil habitat

The lesser short-tailed gerbil, unlike many other Gerbillus species, is not found in sandy habitats. Instead it prefers steppe grassland and cultivated areas, particularly arable cropland (1).

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Lesser short-tailed 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 short-tailed gerbil threats

There are no known major threats to the lesser short-tailed gerbil (1).

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Lesser short-tailed gerbil conservation

There are currently no conservation actions in place to protect the lesser short-tailed gerbil and it is not known if it is present 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

Gestation
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Nocturnal
Being active at night.
Steppe
Natural grassland with low rainfall. In Africa this lies in the transition zone between savanna and severe desert.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Granjon, L., Aniskin, V.M., Voloboueve, V. and Sicard, B. (2002) Sand-dwellers in rocky habitats: a new species of Gerbillus (Mammalia: Rodentia) from Mali. Journal of Zoology, 256: 181-190.
  3. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Second Edition. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  4. Kingdon, J. (1984) East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Volume 2. The University of Chicago Press, London.
  5. Harrison, D.L. (1967) Observations on some rodents from Tunisia, with the description of a new gerbil (Gerbillinae: Rodentia). Mammalia, 31: 381-389.
  6. Beolens, B., Watkins, M. and Grayson, M. (2009) The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
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