Great gerbils, (Wilson and Reeder, 1993), are distributed through out Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to Southern Mongolia and North-Central China. In the Middle East they are found in Iran, Afghanistan, and western Pakistan. Great gerbil are also said to inhabit areas of Southwestern Russia.
Great gerbils inhabit the deserts of Central Asia. They are most abundant in sand and clay deserts, usually in foothill and mountain areas. This species of gerbil prefers subsandy soil where it creates elaborate multichambered burrows. These burrows are found from 1.5-2.5 m below the surface. These animals will also inhabit agricultural areas. They dammage crops because they hoard grains and vegetation for the winter. (Nowak, 1999)
This is the largest species of gerbil with a body length ranging from 150 to 200 mm and a tail length of 130 to 60 mm. The upper body is yellowish-orange, or dark grayish-yellow, matching the sandy deserts they inhabit. Great gerbils spend the winter under snowpack and has thick, dense, soft fur and a fairly long-haired tail. The body is stocky. The claws are long and sharpto help it dig its burrows. (Nowak, 1999)
The mating system of this species has not been reported.
Little has been reported about the parental care of this species. Females nurse their young, which are probably altricial. The role of the male in parental care is not known. (Nowak, 1999)
Lifespan varies from male to female. The males maximum lifespan is 2 to 3 years and the female lives 3 to 4 years. (Wilson and Reeder, 1993)
The home range size of these animals has not been reported.
Communication in this species has not been described. However, because they are somewhat social, it is likely that they have some tactile communication. As in other rodents, they probably use some vocalizations and visual cues to communicate also.
Great gerbils have a number of anti-predator adaptations that they utilize in order to survive the harsh enviroments they occupy. Their sandy colored backs blend in with the desert floor making it difficult for air-pursuit predators to locate them. They have a large middle ear, allowing them to hear low-frequency sounds made by the wings of owls and raptors, and helping them to evade such predators. These animals have large eyes, which enable them to have an open field of vision. (Macdonald, 1984)is mostly diurnal, foraging during low light hours to avoid predators. The tuft of hair on the end of the tail is believed to be a predator decoy. A bird of prey might hit the tail, allowing the gerbil enough time to escape.
provides a source of food for predators like owls and hawks. The burrow systems they create may also affect the ecosystems they inhabit, and enhance soil aeration. because they cache food, they probably play some role in seed dispersal.
This species is trapped for its skins in some places. (Nowak, 1999)
This species is considered a pest through out its entire range. These gerbils have been known to damage crops, irrigation cannals, and embankments of roads and railways. In Central Asia these mammals carry disease like the plague and the skin disease Leishmaniasis. (Macdonald, 1984; Nowak, 1999)
Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Mathew Nannizzi (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor), Humboldt State University.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
an animal that mainly eats the dung of other animals
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Macdonald, D. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publications.
Nowak, R. 1999. Walkers Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. Smithsonian Institution.