Euphrates jerboas are found in the mountains, semi-deserts, and desert steppes of Asia Minor, from Turkey and northwestern Iran, east to eastern Afghanistan, south to northern Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and west to Jordan and Syria. Where the territory of Euphrates jerboas overlaps that of lesser jerboas (Pygeretmus pumilio), Euphrates jerboas are less common. (Harrison, 1981; Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
Euphrates jerboas live in burrows in rocky areas of mountain foothills or valleys near places with abundant vegetation. They are also found near agricultural lands, where there are abundant food resources available in the form of seeds. These burrows are straight, 120 to 170 cm long and 45 to 70 cm deep. The entrance to the burrow is 9 to 12 cm in diameter and is closed by the resident jerboa during late spring and summer with a soil plug in order to keep the heat out and the moisture in. There is usually only one individual in each burrow, with the exception of mothers with young, and individuals build their burrows far from other jerboas. Some Euphrates jerboas use the nests of other species instead of building their own. Allactaga euphratica in the Ararat and Diabarskaja valleys use the burrows of mid-Asian gerbils (Meriones blackleri), and those in the Leninakan uplands use the burrows of sousliks (Spermophilus citellus).
Like other dipodids, Euphrates jerboas have very large hind feet and small forelimbs. The length of their feet is usually 50 to 61 mm, body length is 230 to 310 mm and tail length is 144 to 195 mm. Allactaga euphratica use their long tails for balance while they are bounding. They also have rather tall, narrow ears, measuring from 27 to 42 mm. There are tufts of hair around the openings of their ears to keep sand out. A distinguishing feature of the genus Allactaga is that, while they have five toes, two of them on each of their feet are vestigial and are found high up on the hind foot. The hind feet also have tufts of hair on the bottom to provide friction against the sand while walking and jumping.
Allactaga euphratica have furry coats with either red and black upper parts and white under parts or sandy colored upper parts and white under parts, depending on the color of the soil where they are found. All Allactaga euphratica have one white stripe on their hips. They also have black and white tufts of fur on the ends of their tails. These tufts are often used by individuals while bounding to signal to other jerboas. Euphrates jerboas living at higher elevations tend to have darker coats than those at lower elevations. All Euphrates jerboas have well-developed whiskers. (Harrison, 1981; Nowak, 1999)
The mating system of A. euphratica is not known. Mating systems in other jerboa species are also poorly known.
There is not much information regarding reproduction of A. euphratica. What little research has been done is based on the capture of pregnant females at different times of the year. Based on this research, it appears that these jerboas have a very long breeding season, which lasts from May to October. It is thought that a long breeding season is an adaptation to the harsh climate of the mountains in which they live. Females have also been found to give birth to two to eight young at a time and to have two to three litters per year. Allactaga euphratica young open their eyes at the age of two weeks. The details of development in the young are not known in A. euphratica. However, the young of A. elater spend 30 to 35 days with their mother and are mature by 3.5 months and those of A. major spend 1.5 months with their mother and do not breed until their second year. Female jerboas have been known to care for the young of other jerboas. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975; Nowak, 1999)
Young Euphrates jerboas are nursed and cared for by their mother in her den until they are independent. In other jerboa species this is between 30 and 45 days old (A. elater, 30 to 35 days, A. major, 45 days). (Nowak, 1999)
The longest a Euphrates jerboa has lived in captivity is 4 years and 2 months. Lifespan in the wild is unknown, although it is likely that most mortality occurs during the first year of life. (Nowak, 1999)
Euphrates jerboas are solitary, nocturnal foragers. They have great agility and speed, which they use to escape from predators. Another defensive tactic they use is jumping off their hind legs into the air (bounding) energetically. They do this only when they are aroused, however. When relaxed, A. euphratica will slowly walk bipedally. They use their smaller forelimbs to move dirt out of the way while they dig their burrows with their teeth. (Harrison, 1981; Naumov and Lobachev, 1975; Nowak, 1999)
Many members of genus Allactaga will build both a permanent burrow and several temporary ones. The temporary burrows are shorter and often simpler than the permanent ones. They will dig separate burrows for nesting. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
Euphrates jerboas living in valleys usually hibernate during the winter from late October to late February. However, if the winter is mild, many populations will not hibernate. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
In another species, Allactaga elater, it is the adult males who begin hibernating first. They have more fat than the adult females. The last to begin hibernation are young females. During hibernation, ambient temperate is 2 to 3 degrees Celsius or lower. During thaws, A. elater will wake from hibernation. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
Small groups of A. euphratica are known to live in plots of 10 to 20 hectares. The average density of A. euphratica is 1 per hectare. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
Euphrates jerboas use the black and white tufts of fur on their tail to signal to other jerboas, possibly a warning signal when danger is perceived. Jerboas have keen senses of hearing, smell, and vision in dim light. As with other rodents, they probably communicate among themselves using mainly olfactory cues. (Harrison, 1981)
Euphrates jerboas eat mostly seeds and the underground parts of plants. They usually forage at least 0.25 kilometers from their burrows. Another species, Allactaga sibirica, will often go to the burrows of great gerbils (Rhombomys opimus) to take food. In the wild, A. euphratica does not need free water to drink because they get it from the plants they eat. However, in captivity, they will drink free water. Also in captivity, A. euphratica will choose grains over juicy plants and will dig holes in melons to get to the seeds in the middle. (Harrison, 1981; Naumov and Lobachev, 1975; Nowak, 1999)
These jerboas escape predation mainly through their agility and speed. They are capable of large leaps, quickly getting them away from a potential threat. Jerboas are also nocturnal, which protects them from some visual predators. Their coloration and habits make them difficult to see in their desert habitats.
There are few records of specific predators on Euphrates jerboas, but nocturnal snakes, owls, and small to medium-sized mammalian predators, such as foxes, are probably their main predators.
Euphrates jerboas serve as an important prey base for small to medium-sized predators. They may also contribute to seed dispersal in plants throughout their range.
Euphrates jerboas are important members of healthy desert ecosystems.
Allactaga euphratica like to eat the seeds inside melons so they will dig to the middle to get them, destroying the melon in the process. While no specific incidences involving A. euphratica were found, it has been documented that a related species with similar feeding habits, jumper jerboas (Allactaga sibirica), completely destroyed a cucumber plantation in one night. They have also been known to damage private gardens and melon fields. (Naumov and Lobachev, 1975)
Allactaga euphratica is listed as near threatened. While the cause of the threat to A. euphratica was not found, it is probably due to the same factors that cause other jerboas to be threatened including loss of habitat and desert reclamation projects. (Baillie, 1996; Nowak, 1999)
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Sarah Hodgson (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor, instructor), Michigan 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.
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.
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
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.
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
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.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
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.
Baillie, J. 1996. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed March 31, 2004 at http://www.redlist.org/search/details.php?species=854.
Harrison, D. 1981. Mammals of the Arabian Gulf. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd..
Naumov, N., V. Lobachev. 1975. Ecology of Desert Rodents of the U.S.S.R. (Jerboas and Gerbils). Pp. 465, 471-473 in I Prakash, P Ghosh, eds. Rodents in Desert Environments. The Netherlands: Dr. W. Junk b.v. Publishers The Hague.
Nowak, R. 1999.