The Mzab gundi (Massoutiera mzabi) is a species of rodent in the family Ctenodactylidae. It is monotypic within the genus Massoutiera. It is found in Algeria, Chad, Mali, Niger, and possibly Libya.
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Sahara gundis occupy the central Sahara Desert in Algeria, northern Niger, northwestern Chad, northeastern Mali, and southwestern Libya. (Dieterlen, 1993)
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Sahara gundis are cream-colored with yellow and brown shades. They have long and thick fur that serves as good protection against the cold winters of the Sahara desert. These animals have a stocky body and a flat, robust skull. Their average head and body length ranges from 170-240 millimeters; average tail length is 35 millimeters.
Sahara gundis have long, bristly vibrissae that serve as sensory organs in darkness. Their ears are small, round, immovable, and lie flat against its head. Fringes of hair cover the inner ear to block sand from entering the auditory meatus.
They have powerful limbs. The bottom of their feet are hairless and are padded with dense cushion-like padding that adheres to rock and withstands extreme heat. Each foot has four digits with sharp and pointy claws that are ideal for climbing in crevices of rocks. Bristles are found above the claws to further assist the animal in digging through the sand. Bristle combs, used for grooming its fur, are located on the two inner toes of the hind feet.
Females have two pairs of mammae. There are no significant morphological differences between males and females except for the fact that adult females tend to be slightly heavier than adult males.
(Freye, 1975; Nowak, 1999)
Range mass: 170 to 195 g.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sahara gundis are found mainly in crevices and natural cracks in rocks and/or mountains. They can be found at elevations up to 2400 meters above sea level in desert and semi-desert habitats.
Ideal living sites provide a permanent or temporary shelter, and often allow for easy access to direct sunlight for daily sunbathing.
Sahara gundis do not dig their own dens, nor do they build any type of nest. They seek refuge in naturally rocky landscapes.
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; mountains
Sahara gundis are exclusively herbivorous. Their diet consists of leaves, stems, seeds, grasses, and herbs.
Sahara gundis feed on plant material directly from the ground. They drink water regularly, but have a water intake that is low overall. They compensate for this by feeding on a variety of plants that have a high water content.
(Nowak, 1999 ; Storch, 1990)
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Births usually take place during the first half of the year.
Typically one litter of two or three young is produced. The gestation period is unknown, but ranges from 69-79 days in Ctenodactylus gundi, a related species.
Sahara gundis are born fully developed. Their eyes and ears are open at birth, and their bodies are fully furred. Newborns weigh approximately 20-21 grams, and are 7-8 centimeters long from head to tail.
Within an hour of being born, the young begin to roam around and to sunbathe. They grow rapidly and reach the weight of an adult after three months. The average weaning period ranges from 3-6 weeks
Sahara gundis reach sexual maturity after 8-12 months. The average estrous cycle of a female 24.9 days.
There is no documented information regarding the mating system of sahara gundis.
(Freye, 1975; Nowak, 1999; Storch, 1990)
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
There is very little information about the status of Massoutiera mzabi. There are no recorded estimates of how many animals in this species presently exists.
These animals are confined to Northern Africa, and tend to inhabit remote places such as crevices in rocks and mountains. Thus, it does not seem as though the species would be threatened by habitat loss. (Dieterlen, 1993)
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Sahara gundis are generally restricted to desert or semi-desert habitats, and dwell in rock crevices. Therefore, it is unlikely that they contribute to any serious agricultural (or other) problems that would adversely affect humans.
(Freye, 1975; Nowak, 1999)
There is no recorded evidence of sahara gundis benefiting humans as a food source or for fur trades.