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What Is a Pygmy Jerboa?

Marisa O'Connor
Marisa O'Connor

A pygmy jerboa is a tiny desert rodent, found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have small heads and bodies, with large eyes, hind legs, and tail. These animals can hop incredible distances of nine feet (2.74 m), with their large hind legs, in order to evade predators. Popularity of this endangered species sparked after videos were released on the internet. Since then, people have been trying to get jerboas as pets, but they are illegal in the U.S.

Thess adorable rodents are members of the Dipodidae family. Their faces resemble that of a rat or a rabbit, topped by small curved ears. They have small, kiwi-shaped bodies that rest on top of two large hind legs. Pygmy jerboas also have two forearms that are not used to walk, but mostly used for eating and grooming. These very cute critters have soft, silky fur on their bodies, and very distinctive long, tufted tails to add to their charm.

Pygmy jerboa live in harsh desert environments.
Pygmy jerboa live in harsh desert environments.

Pygmy jerboas have evolved their large hind legs, in order to adapt to the harsh desert environments they hail from. Their primary mode of transportation is hopping, and despite their tiny stature, they can hop considerable distances up to nine feet. This has helped them escape predators, and survive long desert journeys to find food. They are not related, but share many of the same evolutionary traits with kangaroo rats of North America, and hopping mice of Australia, as each of these species survive in similar harsh desert environments.

Owls are the primary predator of the pygmy jerboa.
Owls are the primary predator of the pygmy jerboa.

Due to its small size, the pygmy jerboa has quite a few natural predators. At the top of the list, are owls. They are both nocturnal creatures, so they are both out hunting for food at the same time. Owls are amazing predators, and can swoop down, almost without a sound, and grab a jerboa sized snack. Pygmy jerboas have evolved incredible hearing, just for this reason.

These little rodents gained large popularity after videos of them were released on the internet. For the first time, the rest of the world was able to see the adorable pygmy jerboa, which are found all over western Pakistan.

The Pygmy Jerboa is found in the deserts of Afghanistan.
The Pygmy Jerboa is found in the deserts of Afghanistan.

Many people seem to instantly fall in love with this desert species and are looking to add them to their exotic pet collection. It is illegal in the U.S. to bring a wild pygmy jerboa from Pakistan or Afghanistan, as they are an endangered species. This hasn't stopped some breeders from showing up in the U.S. and selling them illegally. Some people believe that domesticating jerboas would actually help them survive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Pygmy Jerboa?

A Pygmy Jerboa is one of the smallest rodents in the world, belonging to the family Dipodidae. It is known for its distinctive long hind legs, used for jumping, and a long tail that helps it balance. These tiny creatures are adapted to desert environments and have a diet primarily consisting of seeds and insects.

Where can Pygmy Jerboas be found in the wild?

Pygmy Jerboas are native to desert regions in North Africa, China, and Mongolia. They thrive in arid landscapes with sparse vegetation, where they can burrow into the sand to escape the heat of the day and predators. Their specific habitat requirements make them experts at surviving in some of the most challenging environments on Earth.

How do Pygmy Jerboas adapt to their desert environment?

Pygmy Jerboas have several adaptations for desert living. Their fur reflects sunlight to avoid overheating, while their burrowing behavior helps them maintain a stable temperature and avoid predators. They also have efficient kidneys that minimize water loss, allowing them to survive with very little water, often just from the food they consume.

What do Pygmy Jerboas eat?

Pygmy Jerboas are omnivores with a diet that mainly includes seeds and insects. Their food choices are influenced by the scarcity of resources in their desert habitats. They have been observed to eat a variety of plant material and occasionally small invertebrates, which provide them with the necessary nutrients to survive in their harsh environment.

How big do Pygmy Jerboas get?

Pygmy Jerboas are incredibly small, with body lengths typically ranging from 4 to 5 centimeters, and their tails can be twice as long as their bodies. Despite their diminutive size, they are well-equipped for survival, with their long legs enabling them to leap distances many times their body length to escape predators.

Are Pygmy Jerboas endangered?

The conservation status of Pygmy Jerboas varies by species, but habitat destruction and climate change pose threats to their populations. Some species, like the Baluchistan Pygmy Jerboa, are listed as 'Near Threatened' by the IUCN Red List, indicating that they could face an increased risk of endangerment without proper conservation efforts.

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    • Pygmy jerboa live in harsh desert environments.
      By: desertsolitaire
      Pygmy jerboa live in harsh desert environments.
    • Owls are the primary predator of the pygmy jerboa.
      By: carmelo milluzzo
      Owls are the primary predator of the pygmy jerboa.
    • The Pygmy Jerboa is found in the deserts of Afghanistan.
      By: juan35mm
      The Pygmy Jerboa is found in the deserts of Afghanistan.