Tristram's Jird

Tristram's Jird / Meriones tristrami / جرذ ترسترام

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Status: Unknown

Systematic (order, family) – Rodentia, Muridae Description – a medium-sized rodent, with a tail as long as the body. The fur on the upperparts varies in color by location, and ranges from pale yellowish brown to dark grey, but the underparts are always white. The tail is brown and the last quarter has a short black “brush” of hairs. The back legs are longer than the forelegs, and they usually walk slowly on four legs, but will hop away quickly on its back legs if threatened.

Distribution in the country and worldwide – The Tristram's Jird ranges from Anatolia and the Caucasus, south to Levant. It is the smallest and most common jird in Palestine in dry habitats.

Habitat – Lives in steppe and semi-desert habitats, usually limited to areas receiving more than 100mm of rainfall annually. It inhabits a variety of soil types, but prefers areas that are well-drained. Also found on the edges of fields and agricultural settlements.

Behavior – a nocturnal species, which sometimes closes the entrances of the burrow from inside to create a high humidity level in the burrow and avoid water loss. It digs burrows, typically in sand mounds, but the burrows are not used for food storage. Therefore, they must leave the burrow every night in order to feed. Usually they feed on grains, seeds, and green plant parts. Their burrows are complex and have several entrances, which helps them be closer to food sources without unnecessary exposure to predators. They are solitary and territorial. Each individual lives in its own burrow.

Breeding/mating (season, how and where) –Breeding typically occurs between April and September, but can take place year-round. The males and the females only meet for the purposes of courtship and mating. The gestation period lasts 25- 29 days after which she gives birth to 1-8 blind, helpless pups in a soft nest in the burrow. At 10 days they are covered in fur, weaned after 15 days and at about 3 months reach sexual maturity. They can live about 2 and a half years in the wild and more than 5 years in captivity. Males usually live longer than females.

Weight and size – Body length of about 13.5cm. Tail length of about 13.5cm. Weight averages 79g (48-110g).

Threats and hazards – In a year of high reproductive success, the population swells and they can cause damage to agriculture. To combat the damage, farmers scatter poisoned seeds from airplanes on their grain fields.

Cool facts – At times of excitement, they will tap the ground with their back legs, a behavior that is probably used to signal danger to the other jirds in the area.

Conservation status – Least concern