Sundevall’s jird is well adapted to its harsh environment. Able to extract water efficiently from its food, it also minimises water loss by producing dry faeces and concentrated urine, by not sweating, and by only leaving the burrow at night. The diet consists mostly of plant material, including seeds, roots, bulbs, leaves and fruit, although insects such as locusts and crickets may also be taken (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). Foraging can take place at a considerable distance from the burrow, although the jird tends to return to the burrow to eat (1) (2). Often excavated below tufts of vegetation (2) (7), the burrow varies in complexity from a spiralled tunnel with a single entrance, to complex galleries with as many as 18 entrances, descending more than a metre below ground and attaining a combined shaft length of up to 40 metres. Food storage chambers are often built near the surface, and one or more nest chambers, containing shredded dry vegetation, are found at greater depths (2) (3).
Although sometimes solitary, Sundevall’s jird often lives in small colonies, particularly where food is more abundant (2) (6) (7) (8), and communicates with various vocalisations, as well as by thumping the hind feet (3). Breeding often occurs during the cooler months (1) (2) (7) (9), but when conditions are favourable Sundevall’s jird may breed year round, producing up to three litters a year (3) (6). Litter size is around 3 to 7, the young being born naked, blind and helpless, after a gestation period ranging from 18 to 31 days (2) (3) (9) (10). The fur develops and eyes open by about two weeks, and weaning occurs after a month, by which time the young leave the maternal nest (2) (6) (10). The female may become pregnant again immediately after giving birth (10), and the young jirds can themselves breed from as early as 53 days (2), so numbers may increase rapidly when conditions are favourable (7). The lifespan of Sundevall’s jird is usually around two years in the wild (9), but up to five years in captivity (3).