Gerbillus cheesmaniCheesman's gerbil

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Geographic Range

Gerbillus cheesmani, one of the northern pygmy gerbils, ranges from the Arabian Peninsula east to southwestern Iran. (Badr and Asker, 1980; Nowak, 1997)

Habitat

G. cheesmani is found in rocky and sandy dry areas, often under coarse or sparse vegetation. (Nowak, 1997; Scott and Dunstone, 2000)

Physical Description

G. cheesmani, a medium sized gerbil, is sand-colored, allowing it to blend into its surroundings. Usually the middle line of the dorsum is a bit darker than sides. The paler sides blend in to the belly of the gerbil, which ranges from cream to white. The tail is furry and the underside of the tail usually is similar in color to the underside of the body. The end of the tail has a small tuft and is usually white. The pelage of Cheesman's gerbil is soft and dense.

This species is lean and has long ears and claws. The tail is longer than its head and body. The tail alone can range from 69-180 mm in length compared to the head and body range of 50-130 mm. Its hind feet are long and can be over 25 percent of the head and body length. The soles of the feet are hairy. Unlike some gerbils, the teeth of G. cheesmani are not hypsodont. (Badr & Asker 1980; Nowak 1997)

The skull of G. cheesmani ranges in length from 26.1-33 mm. It has large tympanic bullae. The mastoid parts of the skull extend past the supraoccipital. The rostrum is narrow and the braincase is inflated. (Harrison 1972) (Badr and Asker, 1980; Harrison, 1972; Nowak, 1997)

  • Range mass
    10 to 63 g
    0.35 to 2.22 oz
  • Range length
    119 to 310 mm
    4.69 to 12.20 in

Reproduction

The females are polyestrous, meaning that they ovulate more than once a year. Litters average 4 or 5 pups, can range up to 8. The gestation period is 20-22 days, and pups nurse for about a month. (Nowak, 1997)

  • Breeding season
    This species breeds in all seasons.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 8
  • Average number of offspring
    4-5
  • Range gestation period
    20 to 22 days
  • Average weaning age
    1 months

The young are born naked and are dependent on their mothers for at least a month. (Nowak, 1997)

Lifespan/Longevity

We don't have any information on longevity in this species.

Behavior

Cheeseman's gerbils dig tunnels that vary from simple holes to intricate, maze-like burrows. The burrows may be short or long and may also serve as storage sites for food. The entrances are blocked off by sand. Members of the species usually dig their burrows close to each other, thus forming colonies. (Nowak, 1997)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

These gerbils are primarily herbivorous, but also eat insects. Foods eaten include: seeds, nuts, grasses, roots and insects. They store food in their burrows. (Nowak, 1997)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Ecosystem Roles

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Conservation Status

This species is not believed to need special conservation efforts. It is rated "Lower Risk" by the Red List.

Contributors

Divya Jain (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

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

World Map

altricial

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

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.

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.

endothermic

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

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).

motile

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.

nocturnal

active during the night

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

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

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

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).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

viviparous

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

References

Badr, F., R. Asker. 1980. Prevalence of non-Robertsonian polymorphism in the Gerbil Gerbillus cheesmani from Kuwait.. Genetica, 52: 17-22.

Harrison, D. 1972. The Mammals of Arabia, vol. 3. London: Ernest Benn Limited.

Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online 5.1" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.muridae.gerbillus.html.

Scott, D., N. Dunstone. 2000. Environmental determinants of the composition of desert-living rodent communities in the north-east Badia region of Jordan. Journal of Zoology, 251: 481-494.