Overview

Distribution

Saccostomus campestris inhabits the savannahs, steppes, cultivated lands, scrub fields and sand plains of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

  • Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World, 4th ed., Vol. I. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Range Description

This widespread species occurs over most of southern Africa. This species ranges from southwestern Tanzania, through Angola (Crawford-Cabral 1998), Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa. It occurs from 50 m up to around 2,000 m asl.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Saccostomus campestris has a robust body (94-188 mm length, 40-85 g mass) with a short tail (30-81 mm). Their short legs and strong toes are well-adapted to digging. They have a broad head with short, rounded ears and small eyes. Pouched mice are named for their cheek pouches that stretch from the corners of their mouths to their shoulders that is used to carry seeds and grains. Female pouched mice have 10-12 mammae and both sexes have incisors that are not grooved. The rear feet of S. campestris are small, like many other members of the family Muridae.

The pelage of S. campestris is long, yet dense and fine. The coat is gray/gray-brown on top with lighter sides and white underparts (including the underside of the tail). S. campestris is sometimes said to resemble the common hamsters that are part of the U.S. pet trade.

Saccostomus campestris may be considered heterothermic due to its use of torpor to save energy when temperatures drop or when food resources become scarce. Scientists have observed that females employ torpor more often than males, presumably due to males' need to remain ready for reproductive opportunities that may arise.

Research indicates that males are not significantly heavier than females, on average, but older mice are heavier than younger mice. There is an annual cycle of body weights, such that on average, mice tend to be heavier in the wet season (December-March) than in the dry season (June-September), mainly due to an increased availability of high quality food resources. Much of the weight that is lost by a population of S. campestris is lost by younger mice, who tend to lose more weight during times of lowered food availability than older mice. This trend may be explained by the ability of the older, more experienced mice to find and secure more seeds in their burrows to be eaten throughout the winter than the younger mice.

Range mass: 40 to 85 g.

Range length: 94 to 188 mm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.618 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.274 W.

  • Lovegrove, B., J. Raman. 1998. Torpor patterns in the pouched mouse (Saccostomus campestris; Rodentia): a model animal for unpredictable environments. Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 168: 303-312.
  • Mzilikazi, N., B. Lovegrove. 2002. Reproductive activity influences thermoregulation and torpor in pouched mice, Saccostomus campestris . Journal of Comparative Phsiology B, Vol. 172: 7-16.
  • Tinney, G., R. Bernard, R. White. 2001. Influence of food quality and quantity on the male reproductive organs of a seasonally breeding rodent, the pouched mouse (Saccostomus campestris), from a seasonal but unpredictable environment. African Zoology, Vol. 36, No. 1: 23-30.
  • Westlin, L. 1996. Behavioural manifestation of conception 12 hours after mating in an asocial African rodent, Saccostomus campestris . Journal of Zoology, Vol. 239: 515-523.
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Ecology

Habitat

Saccostomus campestris prefers sandy, grassy or cultivated fields, steppe, and savannah habitats. The pouched mouse is completely terrestrial and lives in burrows that it either digs itself or finds vacated by other species.

Range elevation: 263 to 1198 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland

  • Ellison, G. 1993. Group size, burrow structure and hoarding activity of pouched mice (Saccostomus campestris: Cricetidae) in southern Africa. African Journal of Ecology, Vol. 31: 135-155.
  • Ferreira, S., R. Van Aarde. 1996. Changes in community characteristics of small mammals in rehabilitating coastal dune forests in northern KwaZulu/Natal. African Journal of Ecology, Vol. 34: 113-130.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs in savanna woodland, as well as various other habitats, but it is a species complex that most likely has component species dependent on specific habitats. In Malawi it is a grassland woodland species, but in Namibia it occurs in western arid areas and enters the Namib desert along riverbeds. It is found in disturbed areas such as rural gardens.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Saccostomus campestris is a granivore, primarily eating seeds, grains, and nuts. It also eats fruits, berries, insects such as ants or termites, and some leafy material. Pouched mice gets their name by gathering food in the field and carrying it to their burrows, where the food is eaten and/or stored. Foraging behavior takes place at night and in the more temperate areas of their range, pouched mice store food for the winter. If they are available, S. campestris prefers seeds of Acacia species, particularly A. tortilis. Their preference for these seeds may impact the community structure in years of either abundant Acacia production or high densities of mice. Studies also showed that when available, S. campestris hoards rat pellets, presumably due to their high protein levels and lower fiber content.

It appears that S. campestris, although it is fairly omnivorous, tends to hoard only seeds in its burrow, presumably because these are the least perishable constituents of its diet. Large caches, as are seen in the burrow of pouched mice living in the more temperate southern portions of their range, may represent up to 70 foraging trips. This value is based on the amount of seed found in the burrows and the maximum capacity of the cheek pouches of these mice. This caching may be essential in times when food becomes scarce. Caching may be particularly important for female pouched mice, as it may allow them to fuel the lactation process without leaving their young unattended as well as to provide their young with the increased nutrition that can help them to become large before they leave the safety of the nest.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Other Foods: dung

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Granivore )

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Associations

Due to its preference for specific types of seeds, S. campestris can impact the structure of the vegetation in its ecosystem by consuming large numbers of those preferred seeds. One of those preferred seeds is Acacia tortilis, which is heavily predated by S. campestris and other small mammals when it is available. Additionally, S. campestris impacts its environment by indirectly competing with other small mammal seed eaters, such as Mastomys natalensis, Aethomys chrysophilus, Acomys spinosissimus and Gerbilliscus leucogaster.

Pouched mice are burrowers, therefore they provide habitat for other small mammals and aerate the soil. Likewise, if any seed that is cached is not consumed, it has a better chance at germinating and surviving than seeds that are left on the surface that will likely be consumed by another small mammal or be dessicated before germination.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; creates habitat; soil aeration

  • Ferreira, S., R. Van Aarde. 1999. Habitat associations and competition in Mastomys-Saccostomus-Aethomys assemblages on coastal dune forests. African Journal of Ecology, Vol. 37: 121-136.
  • Happold, D., M. Happold. 1991. An ecological study of small rodents in the thicket-clump savanna of Lengwe National Park, Malawi. Journal of Zoology, Vol. 223: 527-547.
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While it is presumed that S. campestris faces predation from larger carnivorous mammals and snakes, the only predator that has been specifically noted for this species is the barn owl.

One explanation for the tendency of S. campestris to seal off the entrances to its burrow while it is inside is protection from predators, although it is equally likely that the pouched mouse seals itself in to maintain thermal protection or hide its cache from other terrestrial seed eaters.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Saccostomus campestris is a nocturnal forager, therefore although it was not found in the literature, it is likely that pouched mice uses tactile and/or olfactory sensation to orient itself in the dark. Likewise, because S. campestris shows a preference for some types of food resources, it must use tactile and/or chemical signals to determine which food sources are the best.

Saccostomus campestris is a solitary animal and will defend its burrow and its solitary lifestyle by biting and physically attacking conspecifics. In this manner, it uses a tactile mode of communication to keep other mice away.

Communication Channels: tactile

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

  • Miller, M. 1994. Seed predation by nocturnal rodents in an African savanna ecosystem. South African Journal of Zoology, Vol. 29, No. 4: 262-266.
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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of this specific mammal is not well-recorded, but due to its unpredictable environment, it may be expected to live only 1-3 years in the wild. This lifespan is similar to that of other small mammals in sub-Saharan Africa.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
2.8 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 4.5 years (captivity) Observations: The implantation can be delayed in these animals, depending on the time of the year. In the wild, it has been estimated that they live up to 3 years (Bernhard Grzimek 1990). One captive specimen lived 4.5 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Female pouched mice tend to be aggressive toward all conspecifics except for a very short time, generally a 24-hour period that precedes their true estrous phase. Males must present themselves to females early in this pro-estrous stage or they will be in danger of injury or death from the aggressive females. The female’s estrous phase will commence approximately 12 hours after mating. If that mating did not result in a successful fertilization, the female will tolerate the presence of the male after a mating session. If the mating was successful in fertilizing the female, she will return to her normal aggressive behavior and injure the male if he does not leave within a few hours of copulation. This relationship of female aggression to successful conception is suspected to be influenced by hormones, as females are also intensely aggressive during pregnancy and lactation, but tests have been inconclusive thus far.

Mating System: polygynous

Saccostomus campestris completes its breeding in the wet season so that the young are born when food will be readily available to the lactating mother and emerging juveniles. The winter inhibition of reproduction in S. campestris seems to be associated with multiple environmental cues, including photoperiod, ambient temperature, and food quality and quantity. Given the set of environmental cues that will inhibit reproduction, mating in S. campestris is termed by some to be opportunistic based on the quality of the conditions presented by the environment. In the unpredictable environment of southern Africa, the male pouched mouse must be prepared for reproduction often and is therefore more reluctant to enter torpor than female conspecifics.

Breeding interval: Saccostomus campestris is an opportunistic breeder, so it will breed whenever the environment is favorable.

Breeding season: Although it is an opportunistic breeder, S. campestris tends to breed from January though September, as this is most likely to be the time when favorable conditions will occur.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 10.

Average number of offspring: 5.

Range gestation period: 50 (high) days.

Range weaning age: 20 to 25 days.

Average weaning age: 25 days.

Average time to independence: 25 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 2.6 g.

Average number of offspring: 6.8.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
45 days.

Mothers suckle their young in captivity for up to 8 weeks, during which time the young grow to be 38-56 g. The hoarding behavior of mothers also gives young that have not been fully weaned a good source of nutrition which allows them to leave the nest at a size that makes them more likely to survive.

In the wild, it is much more common that pups are weaned after 25 days. Gestation in the pouched mouse is less than 50 days. The young begin developing very rapidly after birth and are essentially pushed from the nest immediately after being weaned. The upper and lower incisors begin erupting anywhere from 10-14 days after birth and the eyes become fully functional around 24 days. The speed of growth in S. campestris is similar to that of house mice and brown rats.

Research in the laboratory has shown that if alien pups are introduced within the suckling period of her own pups, a female will accept the new pups as her own. If alien pups appear after her own pups have been weaned, however, the female will viciously attack the pups until they die. It has been postulated that the females cannot recognize their own young, but are sensing the difference in diet between weaned and non-weaned pups and can therefore distinguish alien pups which have been weaned. A female will not, however, attack one of her own pups if it has been eating solid food and suckling, indicating that the female must somehow detect a difference in those individuals that suckle and those that do not. All pups are moved from the nest at 25 days, regardless of whether or not they are the mother's own pups or alien pups. This study was undertaken in a laboratory environment, so while it appears that females will accept alien suckling pups as their own, it seems highly improbable that pups that have not yet been weaned would appear in a nursing mother's den outside of a laboratory environment.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)

  • Ellison, G., G. Bronner, P. Taylor. 1993. Is the annual cycle in body weight of pouched mice (Saccostomus campestris) the result of seasonal changes in adult size or population structure?. Journal of Zoology, Vol. 229: 545-551.
  • Mzilikazi, N., B. Lovegrove. 2002. Reproductive activity influences thermoregulation and torpor in pouched mice, Saccostomus campestris . Journal of Comparative Phsiology B, Vol. 172: 7-16.
  • Westlin, L. 1995. Fostering in an African rodent, Saccostomus campestris (Cricetidae). Journal of Zoology, Vol. 237: 163-167.
  • Westlin, L. 1996. Behavioural manifestation of conception 12 hours after mating in an asocial African rodent, Saccostomus campestris . Journal of Zoology, Vol. 239: 515-523.
  • Westlin-Van Aarde, L. 1989. Pre- and post-natal development of pouched mice, Saccostomus campestris . Journal of Zoology, 218: 497-501.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

This species is not considered to be threatened.

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Corti, M., Griffin, M., Coetzee, N. & Chitaukali, W.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Cox, N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because this is a widespread species occurring in several protected, it is adaptable and its population is not believed to be in decline.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
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Population

Population
It is a very common species.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this adaptable species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It occurs in several protected areas throughout its range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Saccostomus campestris can be a crop pest for grain farmers and it is a host for a number of pulicid fleas.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Pouched mice are sometimes sold as a pets, although their aggressiveness toward conspecifics would require that they only be caged individually. In some areas, they are a food source for humans, as each mouse provides 723 KJ of energy when consumed.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food

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Wikipedia

South African pouched mouse

The South African pouched mouse or southern African pouched mouse (Saccostomus campestris) is a species of rodent in the family Nesomyidae,[2] which is viewed as actually representing a complex of undescribed species.[1] It is found in southern Africa in Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and may also be present in Swaziland.[1] This species occurs in savanna woodland, as well as various other habitats, at elevations from 50 to 2000 m.[1] It is present in arid regions of Namibia.[1] The rodent is abundant and is tolerant of human disturbance of its habitat.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Corti, M.; Griffin, M.; Coetzee, N.; Chitaukali, W. (2008). "Saccostomus campestris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Musser, G. G.; Carleton, M. D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 933–934. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
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