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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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; )
There was no evidence found on the negative economic importance for humans. (Haim and Rozenfeld, 1998)
No information was available on the status of S. calurus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
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
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.
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.
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 http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/pa/pa1331_full.html.
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 http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.muridae.sekeetamys.html.
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 http://www.ig-rennmaeuse.de/quastenschwanzrennmaus.htm.
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 http://users.bart.nl/~fredveen/othersekeetuk.htm.