The bushy-tailed jird or bushy-tailed dipodil (Sekeetamys calurus) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Sekeetamys. It is found in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Its natural habitat is rocky areas.
The bushy-tailed jird is a large mouse-like rodent with a bushy tail in the subfamily Gerbillinae. It has a length of between 229 and 292 millimetres (9.0 and 11.5 in) and a tail of between 131 and 164 millimetres (5.2 and 6.5 in). Its average weight is between 27 and 50 grams (0.95 and 1.76 oz). The ears are large and there are pale patches around the eyes. Dorsally, the hairs are yellowish-brown tipped with black, with the flanks being rather paler than the back. There is a sharp demarcation line between the flanks and the whitish underparts. The tail is yellowish-brown at its base, the rest being greyish-black except for the usually white tip. The tail is well furred throughout its length and held upright. This bushy tail is unique among small rodents in Egypt except for the Asian garden dormouse (Eliomys melanurus). The legs are slender and the hind feet are long, with hairless soles.
The bushy-tailed jird occurs in eastern Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel and southern Jordan. Its natural habitat is arid and semiarid localities where the rainfall is typically less than 100 millimetres (4 in) per year. It seems to be expanding its range northwards in Israel; whereas its northern limit used to be the Tze'elim Stream near Masada in southern Israel, it now occurs at Ein Gedi, west of the Dead Sea.
The bushy-tailed jird is an uncommon species but the population trend is stable and there are no particular threats so the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as "least concern".
Sekeetamys calurus prefer arid regions such as South-East Israel, eastern Egypt, Jordan, Sinai, and in the vicinity of Riyadh in central Saudi Arabia.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Sekeetamys calurus can be separated from their gerbil relatives by the color of their coats. The fur is a yellowish, reddish color that is flecked with black hairs. There is a distinct line when the dorsal fur meets the ventral fur. The ventral fur is crisp white. The ears are grey and sometimes have white hairs behind them. The hind feet of bushy-tailed jirds have naked soles that aid in gripping and climbing rocky surfaces. Bushy-tailed jirds are known for their bushy tails, which are brownish grey with white tips. The tails are covered with long hairs that stand out, creating a feather-like effect, thus making the tails bushy. Males have especially full and prominent tails. Young S. calurus appear to have fuller, softer fur.
Sekeetamys calurus have low metabolic rates, 47% of the expected BMR for rodents their size. A low BMR is probably an adaptation to their arid environment.
Range mass: 45 to 90 g.
Average mass: 64 g.
Range length: 9.8 to 12.8 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful; ornamentation
Average basal metabolic rate: 0.274 W.
Arid and rocky environments make the best homes for S. calurus. To avoid heat exhaustion, bushy-tailed jirds burrow in rocky terrain under edges of rocks and boulders. Sekeetamys calurus have adapted to their rocky environments by becoming good climbers. Bushy-tailed jirds are nocturnal and very active at night.
Range elevation: 90 to 1200 m.
Average elevation: 300 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune
Bushy-tailed jirds are omnivores. Depending on the environment, S. calurus diets may vary greatly. In the wild, bushy-tailed jirds prefer seeds, insects, herbs, and small bushes. Sekeetamys calurus cache their food, especially in the presence of potential competitors such as Acomys russatus. In captivity, members of this species will accept seeds, vegetables, fruits, and commercialized rat and gerbil food. It is recommended to keep lettuce and citrus fruits to a minimum. Sekeetamys calurus need to have a high protein diet. In captivity, lime blocks are necessary for nutrition as well as for play. Bushy-tailed jirds also prey on live food, such as mealworms.
Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: omnivore
Sekeetamys calurus are found in arid regions where not many other mammals dwell. However, research has been done on the competition between bushy-tailed jirds, S. calurus, and golden spiny mice. Under the right circumstances, the two species compete for nesting sites and materials, as well as food. Sekeetamys calurus are found to be dominant, perhaps as a result of their protection of their food stores and nesting materials. Predators such as hyraxes and several kinds of foxes rely on this species. Bushy-tailed jirds are omnivores, feeding on insects when they are available. They also gather and cache seeds, perhaps dispersing them.
When kept as laboratory specimens, bushy-tailed jirds are susceptible to several different strains of viruses and bacteria, as well as mites. There is no information confirming that S. calurus are affected by these health factors in the wild.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
The main predators are desert foxes, but they also fall victim to hyraxes. Remains of S. calurus have been found in some owl pellets. Snakes inhabiting arid regions may also prey upon bushy-tailed jirds, although no evidence was found. When S. calurus feel threatened they thump their feet to scare the predator and warn others. If that tactic does not succeed, they attempt to outrun their predator.
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Bushy-tailed jirds are not highly vocal. When they are vocal, it is usually because they have been injured or feel severely threatened. Most communication is done through foot thumping. Sekeetamys calurus thump their feet loudly when they sense danger or when they become sexually excited. Another form of communication that bushy-tailed jirds use is scent marking. There are small scent glands on the ventral sides of their bodies. Sekeetamys calurus rub their bellies on everything that they consider their property, including territory and family members. Each animal has its own distinct scent that distinguishes its property from that of any other S. calurus.
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks ; vibrations
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
There is a significant difference in the lifespan of captive (4.5 years) vs. wild animals (5.8 months), and between males and females. Captive animals have a greater longevity due to their lack of predators and consistent food supply. Males tend to live longer than females.
Status: wild: 30 (high) months.
Status: wild: 25 months.
Status: captivity: 4 to 5 years.
Status: wild: 5.6 to 6.0 months.
Status: captivity: 1 to 4 years.
Mating pairs tend to stay in close contact throughout the mating season. Sekeetamys calurus are a seasonally monogamous species.
Mating System: monogamous
Scent markings are a crucial form of attracting mates. Male bushy-tailed jirds also use foot thumping to show females that they are interested in mating. Once a male has selected a female to mate with, he chases her. Chasing of the female commences in the early evening, and may last several hours. Mating pairs tend to stay in close contact throughout the mating season. The pair often wrestle, with the loser being pinned down and given a thorough bathing by the winner.
Sexual maturity for Sekeetamys calurus is sixty to eighty days after birth. Mating season for bushy-tailed jirds in the wild is February and March. Captive animals have the ability to mate year round. Breeding of captive animals may be difficult as it is dependent on the animals' diet; they must have a high protein and low fat diet. Gestation lasts for 21 to 24 days. Female S. calurus give birth to liters of three to five young in captivity, and two to three young in the wild. Weaning and the first signs of independence of young occur at four to five weeks.
Breeding interval: Sekeetamys calurus breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Mating season for bushy-tailed jirds in the wild is February and March.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.
Range gestation period: 21 to 24 days.
Range weaning age: 4 to 5 weeks.
Range time to independence: 4 to 5 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 60 to 80 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 60 to 80 days.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 2.9.
Sekeetamys calurus often form mating pairs that help care for the young. Both parents invest time in watching and gathering food for their young. In groups, the parents protect the young from being eaten by conspecifics. It is important to make sure that in captivity, new bushy-tailed jird parents have enough calcium and protein in their diet. If they do not, they will resort to cannibalism and eat their young.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
No information was available on the status of S. calurus.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
There was no evidence found on the negative economic importance for humans.
Sekeetamys calurus are very important to the pet trade. Bushy-tailed jirds have been introduced in many countries as mild-mannered pets. Sekeetamys calurus are also often used in animal laboratories. They make good lab subjects due to their mild manner and unique ways of thermoregulating.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education
Sekeetamys calurus is the only species in its genus. Sekeetamys have several adaptations to their arid environments. Bushy-tailed jirds respond to osmotic stress from dehydration by reducing resting metabolic rate (RMR), increasing non-shivering thermogenesis (NST), and reducing their volume and increasing the concentration of urine. A high capacity NST allows desert rodents to compensate for their low RMR and allows them to be active during cold desert nights. Low RMR allows bushy-tailed jirds to conserve energy during the day when they are sheltered from the heat, and then a high NST capacity allows the animal to increase heat production within a short period of time before nightfall. The adaptive ability of nocturnal activity and diurnal rest is very important to the functioning of S. calurus.