10 genera in 5 subfamilies
The jerboa (from Arabic يربوع yarbū' or Hebrew ירבוע yarbōa' ) form the bulk of the membership of the family Dipodidae. Jerboas are hopping desert rodents found throughout Asia and Northern Africa. They tend to be found in hot deserts.
Jerboas resemble mice with long tufted tails and very long hind legs. The small forelegs are not used for locomotion. In general, Asiatic jerboas have five toes on their hind feet and African jerboas have three; the shapes of their ears vary widely between species. Jerboa fur is long, soft and silky. Diet varies considerably: some are specialist seed, insect, or plant eaters, others are omnivores.
Jerboas have the ability to hop considerable distances relative to its size, an ability that evolved as an adaptation to help them escape from predators, and to assist with long journeys and foraging in its desert environment. Although jerboas are not closely related to the hopping mice of Australia or the kangaroo rats of North America, all three groups have evolved a similar set of adaptations to life in the deep desert.
Burrows and Behavior
Jerboas are nocturnal. During the heat of the day, they shelter in burrows. They create four separate types of burrow: two temporary, and two permanent. The temporary burrows are plain tubes used to escape predators during the night, tending to be just 10 to 20 cm (3.9 to 7.9 in) deep, unsealed and not camouflaged. Permanent daytime burrows are well-hidden and sealed with a plug of sand to keep heat out and moisture in, and tend to be 20 to 50 cm (7.9 to 20 in) long. A jerboa's permanent burrow often has multiple entrances, and it is a much more elaborate structure with a nesting chamber. The winter burrows have food storage chambers 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) below ground level, and a hibernation chamber an astonishing 1.5 to 2.5 m (4.9 to 8.2 ft) down.
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