Life can be pretty tough in the desert, especially when everyone is trying to eat you. But when you’re born with hind legs that are four times as long as your forearms, you sort of get used to disappointment.
But hey, at least they kind of look like a cool t-rex, right? And although they may seem fragile, they can surprisingly be just as tough as one too.
If you were to leave a human in the desert with no supplies, they wouldn’t last very long. Jerboas, on the other hand, have lived there for millions of years, adapting themselves to survive all of the extreme conditions their barren home has to offer.
But how are they able to withstand the extreme temperatures? What makes them so good at escaping predators? And why don’t they ever need a drink of water?
Jerboas are bipedal rodents, which means that they use only two feet for walking, just like us! But their walk is a lot more impressive than ours. These furry creatures use their extra long legs to cover about 3 m in a single leap. Not too shabby, considering their body length is only around 10 cm.
Predators in the desert typically catch their prey by predicting where they’re going and intercepting their path. But jerboas are anything but predictable.
They travel in a zig-zag trajectory and use a variety of movements to confuse their hunters. Even while they’re moving at top speed, they can switch from running to jumping with both legs, or hopping from one leg to another.
The moves that jerboas use to escape hungry predators are comparable to the moves that basketball players use to deke out their opponents. Now, if only their arms were long enough to throw a ball…
Hunters aren’t the only threat that jerboas have evolved to escape from, they also use their body to get away from the elements. In the desert, temperatures can either be extremely hot, or extremely cold; and most animals wouldn’t survive in either.
But jerboas aren’t most animals; they use their short forearms and strong hind legs to burrow into the sand and escape the harsh climate. These small tunnels aren’t just used to regulate their body temperature; they’re also used for hibernating, and for stealthy hunting.
If you were to shove your head in the sand like a jerboa, you’d probably just end up with a ton of it up your nose, and in your ears. That’s why these adaptive creatures evolved to have folds of skin that can close off their nostrils, and unique hairs that block off their ears.
But their most impressive adaptation for living in the desert has to be their ability to survive without ever drinking water! Jerboas extract as much moisture as possible from their food, which is mostly seeds, with the odd treats of moist leaves or shoots.
They hold on to their tiny water supply by minimizing their sweating, panting, breathing, urinating and pooping. Hey, I might try that! Even though Jerboas may look a little weird, their strange appearance is just a result of all their impressive adaptations, and that’s why they’re Crazy Creatures!
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- “Being Unpredictable Pays Off For Rodent On Two Legs – Futurity”. Erickson-Michigan, Jim. 2017. Futurity. Accessed December 4 2018.
- “17 Animals Amazingly Adapted To Thrive In Deserts”. Heimbuch, Jaymi, 2018. MNN – Mother Nature Network. Accessed December 4 2018.
- “For Rodent Week, The Gift Of Jerboas”. Naish, Darren. 2018. Scientific American Blog Network. Accessed December 4 2018.
- “Printable Factsheet: Jerboas | Young People’s Trust For The Environment”. 2018. Young People’s Trust For The Environment. Accessed December 4 2018.
- “Jerboa”. 2018. en.wikipedia.org. Accessed December 4 2018.