Mackillingin's gerbil (Gerbillus mackillingini)

Synonyms: Dipodillus mackillingini
GenusGerbillus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 5 - 13 cm (2)
Tail length: 7 - 18 cm (2)
Weight10 - 63 g (2)

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

In order to provide camouflage, the fur of gerbils often matches the colour of the ground on which they live, leading to a great deal of variety between individuals (3). The upperparts of Mackillingin’s gerbil range from yellowish-gray to sandy, to a brilliant reddish-brown (2). The sides and flanks are paler, blending into the white underparts (2). The effectiveness of the camouflage is compromised only by the tail, which has a dark brown or black tuft at the tip that acts as a decoy, distracting predators from the gerbil’s body. Mackillingin’s gerbil has the ability to shed its tail to aid escape when seized by a predator (2) (3).

Mackillingin’s gerbil is known from Wadi Allaqi, Egypt, where it was first discovered, as well as from other parts of southern Egypt and north-eastern Sudan (1).

Mackillingin’s gerbil occupies open areas of bare soil and rocky plains in deserts, as well as agricultural areas (1). These habitats are often very arid with scarce vegetation (1).

As an inhabitant of a harsh, arid environment, it is essential that Mackillingin’s gerbil minimises water loss from its body. It achieves this in a number of ways, including by not sweating (3), and by being nocturnal. It spends the hot day in an underground burrow, where the temperature is lower (3), and the burrow opening can be plugged with sand once inside (2). Individuals tend to be solitary (3) but build burrows close to one another to give the impression of a large colony (2). Emerging at night when it is cooler, Mackillingin’s gerbil commences foraging for food (3), which includes seeds, roots, nuts, grasses and insects (2).

While Mackillingin’s gerbil may give birth at any time of year, it tends to prefer reproducing in the cooler months (3). Litter size ranges from one to eight young, but is most often four or five (2). Mackillingin’s gerbil reaches sexual maturity at between two and six months (3).

There are currently no known major threats to this species, which is not considered to be at risk of extinction (1).

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for Mackillingin’s gerbil; however, further studies into the distribution, abundance and ecology of this species have been recommended (1).

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3.  Schlitter, D.A. and Agren, G. (2007) Gerbils. In: Macdonald, D.W. (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.