Sekeetamys calurusbushy-tailed jird

Geographic Range

Sekeetamys calurus prefer arid regions such as South-East Israel, eastern Egypt, Jordan, Sinai, and in the vicinity of Riyadh in central Saudi Arabia. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; Shargal, et al., 1998; van Veen, 2004)


Arid and rocky environments make the best homes for S. calurus. To avoid heat exhaustion, bushy-tailed jirds burrow in rocky terrain under edges of rocks and boulders. Sekeetamys calurus have adapted to their rocky environments by becoming good climbers. Bushy-tailed jirds are nocturnal and very active at night. (Ellerman, 1997; Ggrizmek, 1990; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Range elevation
    90 to 1200 m
    295.28 to 3937.01 ft
  • Average elevation
    300 m
    984.25 ft

Physical Description

Sekeetamys calurus can be separated from their gerbil relatives by the color of their coats. The fur is a yellowish, reddish color that is flecked with black hairs. There is a distinct line when the dorsal fur meets the ventral fur. The ventral fur is crisp white. The ears are grey and sometimes have white hairs behind them. The hind feet of bushy-tailed jirds have naked soles that aid in gripping and climbing rocky surfaces. Bushy-tailed jirds are known for their bushy tails, which are brownish grey with white tips. The tails are covered with long hairs that stand out, creating a feather-like effect, thus making the tails bushy. Males have especially full and prominent tails. Young S. calurus appear to have fuller, softer fur.

Sekeetamys calurus have low metabolic rates, 47% of the expected BMR for rodents their size. A low BMR is probably an adaptation to their arid environment. (Ellerman, 1947; Ellerman, 1997; Ggrizmek, 1990; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Range mass
    45 to 90 g
    1.59 to 3.17 oz
  • Average mass
    64 g
    2.26 oz
  • Range length
    9.8 to 12.8 cm
    3.86 to 5.04 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.274 W


Mating pairs tend to stay in close contact throughout the mating season. Sekeetamys calurus are a seasonally monogamous species. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

Scent markings are a crucial form of attracting mates. Male bushy-tailed jirds also use foot thumping to show females that they are interested in mating. Once a male has selected a female to mate with, he chases her. Chasing of the female commences in the early evening, and may last several hours. Mating pairs tend to stay in close contact throughout the mating season. The pair often wrestle, with the loser being pinned down and given a thorough bathing by the winner. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

Sexual maturity for Sekeetamys calurus is sixty to eighty days after birth. Mating season for bushy-tailed jirds in the wild is February and March. Captive animals have the ability to mate year round. Breeding of captive animals may be difficult as it is dependent on the animals' diet; they must have a high protein and low fat diet. Gestation lasts for 21 to 24 days. Female S. calurus give birth to liters of three to five young in captivity, and two to three young in the wild. Weaning and the first signs of independence of young occur at four to five weeks. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Breeding interval
    Sekeetamys calurus breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Mating season for bushy-tailed jirds in the wild is February and March.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    21 to 24 days
  • Range weaning age
    4 to 5 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    4 to 5 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    60 to 80 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    60 to 80 days

Sekeetamys calurus often form mating pairs that help care for the young. Both parents invest time in watching and gathering food for their young. In groups, the parents protect the young from being eaten by conspecifics. It is important to make sure that in captivity, new bushy-tailed jird parents have enough calcium and protein in their diet. If they do not, they will resort to cannibalism and eat their young. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


There is a significant difference in the lifespan of captive (4.5 years) vs. wild animals (5.8 months), and between males and females. Captive animals have a greater longevity due to their lack of predators and consistent food supply. Males tend to live longer than females. (Ellerman, 1997; Haim, 1996; van Veen, 2004)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 (high) months
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    25 months
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 to 5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5.6 to 6.0 months
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    1 to 4 years


Sekeetamys calurus prefer to live with at least one other S. calurus. In groups, especially family groups, they huddle together to sleep, bathe each other, wrestle, box and chase one another. Aggression is rarely seen in this species, but it can arise. A telltale sign of aggression is when two animals roll up into a tight ball when fighting. This behavior is a characteristic of a fight to the death. If S. calurus feel threatened they let out a loud screech and often run frantically from their aggressor. Aggressive behavior is often seen in males who have a developed hierarchy; the bushier the tail, the higher up in social status the male.

Bushy-tailed jirds are nocturnal mammals who have a high activity level from late evening to early morning. The reason for night activity is due to the fact that they inhabit an arid environment that is very hot during the day and inhibits their movement. (Ellerman, 1947; Ellerman, 1997; Haim, 1996; Liska, 2002; Shenbrot, et al., 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Range territory size
    8,811 to 103,672 m^2
  • Average territory size
    56,242 m^2

Home Range

The home range of this species depends on the sex. Males have a home range anywhere from 103,672 m^2 to 44,303 m^2, and females range from 70,563 m^2 to 8,811 m^2. The home range is also dependent on whether or not the animals are island dwelling. Island dwellers have much smaller home ranges of about 4 ha. (Burdette, 2004; Haim and Rozenfeld, 1998; Shargal, et al., 1998; Shenbrot, et al., 2002)

Communication and Perception

Bushy-tailed jirds are not highly vocal. When they are vocal, it is usually because they have been injured or feel severely threatened. Most communication is done through foot thumping. Sekeetamys calurus thump their feet loudly when they sense danger or when they become sexually excited. Another form of communication that bushy-tailed jirds use is scent marking. There are small scent glands on the ventral sides of their bodies. Sekeetamys calurus rub their bellies on everything that they consider their property, including territory and family members. Each animal has its own distinct scent that distinguishes its property from that of any other S. calurus. (Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002)

Food Habits

Bushy-tailed jirds are omnivores. Depending on the environment, S. calurus diets may vary greatly. In the wild, bushy-tailed jirds prefer seeds, insects, herbs, and small bushes. Sekeetamys calurus cache their food, especially in the presence of potential competitors such as Acomys russatus. In captivity, members of this species will accept seeds, vegetables, fruits, and commercialized rat and gerbil food. It is recommended to keep lettuce and citrus fruits to a minimum. Sekeetamys calurus need to have a high protein diet. In captivity, lime blocks are necessary for nutrition as well as for play. Bushy-tailed jirds also prey on live food, such as mealworms. (Burdette, 2004; Ellerman, 1947; Ellerman, 1997; Ggrizmek, 1990; Liska, 2002; Shenbrot, et al., 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


The main predators are desert foxes, but they also fall victim to hyraxes. Remains of S. calurus have been found in some owl pellets. Snakes inhabiting arid regions may also prey upon bushy-tailed jirds, although no evidence was found. When S. calurus feel threatened they thump their feet to scare the predator and warn others. If that tactic does not succeed, they attempt to outrun their predator. (Burdette, 2004; Ellerman, 1947; Ellerman, 1997; Liska, 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Sekeetamys calurus are found in arid regions where not many other mammals dwell. However, research has been done on the competition between bushy-tailed jirds, S. calurus, and golden spiny mice. Under the right circumstances, the two species compete for nesting sites and materials, as well as food. Sekeetamys calurus are found to be dominant, perhaps as a result of their protection of their food stores and nesting materials. Predators such as hyraxes and several kinds of foxes rely on this species. Bushy-tailed jirds are omnivores, feeding on insects when they are available. They also gather and cache seeds, perhaps dispersing them.

When kept as laboratory specimens, bushy-tailed jirds are susceptible to several different strains of viruses and bacteria, as well as mites. There is no information confirming that S. calurus are affected by these health factors in the wild. (Ellerman, 1997; Haim and Rozenfeld, 1998; Haim, 1996; Liska, 2002; Shenbrot, et al., 2002; van Veen, 2004)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Sekeetamys calurus are very important to the pet trade. Bushy-tailed jirds have been introduced in many countries as mild-mannered pets. Sekeetamys calurus are also often used in animal laboratories. They make good lab subjects due to their mild manner and unique ways of thermoregulating. (Ellerman, 1997; Niv and Haim, 2003; van Veen, 2004; )

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There was no evidence found on the negative economic importance for humans. (Haim and Rozenfeld, 1998)

Conservation Status

No information was available on the status of S. calurus.

Other Comments

Sekeetamys calurus is the only species in its genus. Sekeetamys have several adaptations to their arid environments. Bushy-tailed jirds respond to osmotic stress from dehydration by reducing resting metabolic rate (RMR), increasing non-shivering thermogenesis (NST), and reducing their volume and increasing the concentration of urine. A high capacity NST allows desert rodents to compensate for their low RMR and allows them to be active during cold desert nights. Low RMR allows bushy-tailed jirds to conserve energy during the day when they are sheltered from the heat, and then a high NST capacity allows the animal to increase heat production within a short period of time before nightfall. The adaptive ability of nocturnal activity and diurnal rest is very important to the functioning of S. calurus. (Haim and Rozenfeld, 1998; Haim, 1996; Niv and Haim, 2003)


Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Kimberlee Carter (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.

bilateral symmetry

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

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.

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


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.


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

stores or caches food

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).


Living on the ground.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Burdette, C. 2004. "Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands" (On-line). World Wildlife Foundation. Accessed March 30, 2004 at

Ellerman, 1947. Rodentia:Sekeetamys . Israel: Mammalia of Israel.

Ellerman, J. 1997. "Bushy-Tailed Jird" (On-line). Walker's Mammals of the World Online 5.1. Accessed March 23, 2004 at

Ggrizmek, B. 1990. Jirds. Pp. 254,257 in B Grizmek, ed. Grizmek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 3/4, 4 Edition. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill inc..

Haim, A. 1996. Food and energy intake, non-shivering thermogenesis and daily rhythm of body temperature in the bushy-tailed gerbil Sekeetamys calurus: the role of photoperiod manipulations. Journal of Thermal Biology, 21/1: 37-42.

Haim, A., F. Rozenfeld. 1998. Spacing behaviour between two desert rodents, the golden spiny mouse Acomys russatus and the bushy-tailed gerbil Sekeetamys calurus. Journal of Arid Environments, 39/4: 593-600.

Liska, J. 2002. "Community of Interests of Running Mice" (On-line). Accessed March 23, 2004 at

Niv, P., A. Haim. 2003. Thermoregulatory and osmoregulatory responses to dehydration in the bushy-tailed gerbil Sekeetamys calurus. Journal of Arid Environments, 55/4: 727-736.

Shargal, E., N. Kronfeld, T. Dayan. 1998. On the population ecology of the bushy-tailed jird (Sekeetamys calurus) at En Gedi. Israel Journal of Zoology, 44/1: 61-63.

Shenbrot, G., B. Krasnov, I. Khokhlova. 2002. Notes on the Biology of the bushy-tailed jird, Sekeetamys calurus, in the Central Negev, Israel. Mammalia, 63/4: 374-376.

van Veen, K. 2004. "Scientific Name: Sekeetamys calurus Common Name: Bushy-tailed Jird" (On-line). Gerbil Information Page. Accessed March 16, 2004 at