Salpingotus palliduspallid pygmy jerboa

Geographic Range

Salpingotus pallidus, the pale pygmy jerboa, is endemic to Kazakhstan, where it occupies two distinctly isolated desert habitats. The first is the Northern Aral Sea where it is found in the Aral Karakums, and the Great and Small Barsuki regions. They are also found in the southern Lake Balkhash area where they occur in scattered, widely distributed populations. (Nowak, 1999; Shenbrot, et al., 2008)


Pale pygmy jerboas inhabit northern sandy semi-deserts with sparse sod-forming grasses. Specific habitats vary regionally. In the Aral Karakums, they are found in areas with dense wormwood-cereal vegetation where the sand forms small hills or mounds. Tn the Great Barsuki area they are found on level ridges characterized by areas of clumped but dense vegetation that grows between 40 and 50 cm high. This vegetation is composed of sand wormwood (Artemesia arenaria), goat’s wheat (Atraphazis spinosa), Siberian couch grass (Agropyron sibiricum), gray wormwood (Artemisia glance), feather grass (Stipa joannis), and euphorbia (Euphorbia seguieriana). In the southern Lake Balkhash area they are found in a wider variety of sand types. These include ridged or mounded sand areas and depressions between small hillocks or ridges. The vegetation in these areas is composed mainly of wormwood but also includes sand sedge (Carez physodes) and old-world winter fat (Eurotia ceratoides). (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

The southern Lake Balkash area is located at about 350 m above sea level and the Aral Karakums is at about 55 to 118 m about sea level. ("International Lake Environment Committee", 2008)

  • Range elevation
    55 to 350 m
    180.45 to 1148.29 ft

Physical Description

Pale pygmy jerboas are small rodents, with an average body length of 55 mm. They have large heads, almost as large as their bodies. They have relatively large eyes and a broad snout in comparison to the size of the head. The tail is long, being almost twice the length of the body and averaging 104.8 mm. The end of the tail is sparsely covered with white hairs in all females and in some males. The tails of males have a black end brush that is 2.5 to 3 times longer than those of the females. This is their only known sexually dimorphic trait. Fur coloration is characterized by light grey or beige fur. They have a broad dorsal stripe that starts as a light yellow grey color but gets darker as it extends down the back. Fur on the muzzle, neck, belly, legs, and feet is white. Pale pygmy jerboas, and other three-toed pygmy jerboas are distinguished by the three toes on their hind feet. Their hind legs and tails are long to help them jump. The length of the hind foot averages 22.7 mm, almost half the length of the body, while both the front feet and limbs are much shorter as they are not used when walking or running. Males can be distinguished with penile morphology, characterized by the coverage of small spines of uniform height. Other differences include thickness of the incisors, the distance between the angular and coronoid processes in the mandible, and the width of the ascending branch of the mandible. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

  • Range mass
    7.6 to 12.5 g
    0.27 to 0.44 oz
  • Average mass
    9.8 g
    0.35 oz
  • Range length
    53 to 61 mm
    2.09 to 2.40 in
  • Average length
    55 mm
    2.17 in


Pale pygmy jerboas are solitary. When kept in captivity with conspecifics, pale pygmy jerboas will bite or kill each other. Their mating behavior is most likely polygynandrous or promiscuous. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008; Shenbrot, et al., 2008; Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

Pale pygmy jerboas react better to sound than to scent, although there is currently no information on how these animals locate their mates. (Prakash and Ghosh, 1975)

Female pale pygmy jerboas dig brood burrows that are much more complex than a typical burrow, but are found at the base of ridges or under shrubs, which helps prevent tunnel collapse. Brood burrows consist of about 4 different exists, multiple blind alleys, additional chambers, and one brood chamber with bedding. Mating begins in late April and continues through early May. Births occur in the beginning of July, suggesting a gestation period of 30 to 35 days. A second brood may occur in early August. Average litter size varies with location, consisting of 2 to 4 pups in the northern Aral Sea (average 2.8), while in the southern Lake Balkhash area the average litter contains 4 to 5 pups (average 4.1). The birth weight of pups fluctuates from 0.71 to 0.95 g and body length is approximately 37% the length of adults. Pups grow quickly after birth. In the first two days fur appears on the back and by 13 days fur appears on the rest of the body. At 15 days old the pups have both upper and lower teeth and their body size reaches approximately 68% of that of an adult, with the foot length developing more rapidly and reaching 85% of its adult length. By 30 days the young begin leaving the burrow to forage on their own, although they will continue to nurse for several more days. The young complete their growth before hibernating for winter and do not reach sexual maturity until the next breeding season, in late April. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding occurs one to two times from early July to late August.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from late April through early May.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 5
  • Range gestation period
    30 to 35 days
  • Average weaning age
    30 days
  • Average time to independence
    35 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 11 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 to 11 months

Male pygmy jerboas invest very little in their offspring. They find and mate with females in the spring, which is the extent of their contribution, as females raise their offspring by themselves. For female pygmy jerboas, this includes building a burrow and then nursing their offspring for a little over a month at which time the pups gradually begin to leave the burrow to forage on their own. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

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


Pale pygmy jerboas have a maximum lifespan of 2.5 years in the wild. In captivity they live slightly longer, with a maximum lifespan of 3 years. Cause of death has not been well studied but predation rates and parasite loads are low, so it is likely that they die of disease or old age. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    2.5 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2.5 (high) hours
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 (high) years


Pale pygmy jerboas hibernate during the winter months and are nocturnal. They begin their activity period shortly after sunset and remain active for most of the night in early spring and all night during the warmest months. When they leave their burrows for the night, they first poke their heads out, go back in, and repeat this behavior several times before actually leaving. Then, when they do leave, they bathe themselves by sitting on their hind feet and cleaning themselves with their front paws as well as rubbing their bodies with sand. The grooming process lasts about 10 minutes. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

Pale pygmy jerboas use bipedal saltation as their method of locomotion. This is characterized by small jumps 3 to 5 cm in length for normal foraging, to 20 cm jumps during a fast run. This is a type of locomotion is found in many desert rodents and is thought to be beneficial because, although it often wastes energy, it allows an animal to move quickly, change direction rapidly, and even jump up to avoid predators like snakes. This is important in desert environments where there is little cover. Pale pygmy jerboas can climb bushes and stems of plants by holding on to them with their front paws, teeth, and tail. (Prakash and Ghosh, 1975)

  • Average territory size
    unknown cm^2

Home Range

Pale pygmy jerboa territory sizes have not been well established. However, they follow the same pattern or route every night in their individual territories and do not venture outside of it, except perhaps during the breeding season. Pregnant females will travel 190 to 210 m from their burrows during the course of a night. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

Communication and Perception

Pale pygmy jerboas respond strongly to vocalizations and are believed to use sound as a primary method for communication. They have well-developed ears and large eyes, which is a trait common in nocturnal animals. They are likely to have good vision in low light and use their vision and sense of smell and touch to navigate and find food. (Prakash and Ghosh, 1975)

Food Habits

The pale pygmy jerboa diet is almost entirely made up of insects and seeds. In the spring insects make up about 60% of their diet, in summer months seeds comprise 70% of the diet. Commonly eaten seeds are Carex physodes, Eremopyron oreintale, and Menocus linifolius. Pale pygmy jerboas also eat the dead bodies of lizards, birds, and other small rodents when they find them. Vegetation and bulbs comprise about 1 to 2% of their diet. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

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


No predators of pale pygmy jerboas are reported. It is worth noting that the length of the foot matures more quickly than the body in juvenile pygmy jerboas, allowing them to rapidly acquire the ability to jump and run well. This could be the result of the need to forage at a younger age, an anti-predator adaptation, or both. Moreover, when pale pygmy jerboas are threatened, they will hide under bushes or bury themselves under the sand. Their nocturnal habits and cryptic coloration also help to protect them from predators. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Pale pygmy jerboas have multiple ecosystem roles, as do most animals. They effect their ecosystem primarily through diet and burrowing patterns. They are predators of small insects and seeds of Carex physodes, Eremopyron oreintale, and Menocus linifolius, in addition to other species. They also eat carrion occasionally. They also impact their ecosystem by competing with other, sympatric rodents, such as gray hamsters (Cricetulus migratorius), northern three-toed jerboas (Dipus sagitta), and midday gerbils (Meriones meridianus). Their burrowing activities may also impact vegetation communities. The effects of parasites and disease have not been studied in this particular species, but in Salpingotus crassicauda parasite loads were not substantial. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Salpingotus pallidus and related jerboas provide no known benefits for humans. (Shenbrot, et al., 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pale pygmy jerboas have no negative impact on humans. (Prakash and Ghosh, 1975)

Conservation Status

Pale pygmy jerboas are considered data deficient by the IUCN because little is known about their population trends. Population sizes are small, fluctuate yearly, and populations are fragmented. They are considered rare in some parts of their range. More research is needed on population status to assess their conservation risk.


Janae Chavez (author), University of Oregon, Stephen Frost (editor, instructor), University of Oregon, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



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.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


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.


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 a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


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.

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


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

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.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in


lives alone


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.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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.


Copyright (C) International Lake Environment Committee. 2008. "International Lake Environment Committee" (On-line). Lake Balkhash. Accessed February 14, 2009 at

Nowak, R. 1999. Salpingotus Pallidus. Pp. 881 in Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, 6 Edition. 2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218-4363: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Prakash, I., P. Ghosh. 1975. Rodents in Desert Environments. The Netherlands, Zuid-Nederlandsche Drukkerij N.V., 's-Hertogenbosh: Dr. W. Junk b.v. Publishers the Hague..

Shenbrot, G., V. Sokolov, V. Heptner, Y. Koval'skaya. 2008. Jerboas. A-61 Mayfair Gardens New Delhi-110016, India: Amerind Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd..