You’re not scared of mice, are you? Good, I just wanted to check before I introduce you to the next animal on our safari—the lesser Egyptian jerboa. There are believed to be between two to three dozen different species of jerboas in the world today. They live in different habitats in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The jerboa is part of the rodent family, but it doesn’t behave like any mouse you’ve probably ever seen. The lesser Egyptian jerboa is known for its hopping!
If you can picture a kangaroo about 4 inches (10 cm) long that weighs a little over 1½ ounces (50 grams), then you’ll have a picture of what a lesser Egyptian jerboa looks like. Oh, and I almost forgot, you have to add really big ears and huge black eyes to your picture, too! Come on, I’ll see if I can find the burrow of one out here in the desert so you can see for yourself.
The burrows are very well hidden, so it may take some time . . .
Finally! There, do you see that little clump of sand right there in front of you, the little circle that looks just a little different than the rest? You probably noticed when we were traveling earlier this week that it gets rather hot here in Bahrain. Like many countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrain has areas of desert. The jerboa needs a way to stay cool during the day, so it digs burrows in the sand. The burrows can be quite complicated, with lots of different chambers and many ways in and out. We’ll have to watch to see if the jerboa comes out this “door” or not. You might want to get comfortable—the jerboa usually only comes out at night when it is cooler . . .
I see something—I think there is some movement. We’ll have to stay out of the way. Come over here with me while we watch.
There it comes. Look at those huge feet! Its back two legs are long and strong while the front two are much shorter. Its tail is longer than its whole body, and it has huge ears. It’s coming out of the burrow. It’s probably ready to go foraging for its supper. It will eat seeds, parts of plants, and even bugs. The jerboa doesn’t have to find water, though. It will get all the liquid it needs to survive out of the food it eats.
What was that? I thought I heard something. Wow—look at the jerboa go! He heard it, too, and he’s not waiting around to find out what it was. He is leaping from one spot to another, just like a kangaroo! That is what he uses those huge hind feet for. He can bounce and jump, sometimes covering several meters in just one jump! There’s no way we’ll catch up with him now. Let’s go before we figure out what made that sound we heard.
To see pictures of a lesser Egyptian jerboa, click here.
Using the information you find here, answer the following questions:
True or False:
- A lesser Egyptian jerboa can have fur that includes shades of blue and green.
- The lesser Egyptian jerboa finds its food using its sense of smell.
- You can find lesser Egyptian jerboas in Iran.
Research challenge: Does a lesser Egyptian jerboa belong to the same family as the kangaroo rat of North America?
Here is a printable notebooking page to enjoy!