The desert jerboa, a small but fast kangaroo-like rodent, has adapted to live in barren lands and desert environments. An animal that not many people know about, the jerboa’s lifespan lasts only about two years. This rodent feeds on seeds, stems, roots of grasses, plants, and occasionally insects. There are 32 types of jerboas whose habitats range across North Africa, the Sahara and the Middle East.
In addition to its incredibly short lifespan, the jerboa has a number of distinguishing characteristics. One of these unique features is the jerboa’s abnormally large hind legs, which they use for fast hopping and fleeing from predators. Its snowshoe-like feet keep it from sinking into the sand while fleeing. To keep sand from getting in its nostrils when digging, the desert jerboa extends a fold of skin. It also has hairs in its ears that keep sand from entering them. Further, the jerboa uses its sand-colored fur for camouflage. Sand is important for the jerboa’s body, too: when the animal’s fur becomes matted and greasy, it bathes in clean sand.
When walking through dark areas, the desert jerboa uses its long whiskers to feel its surroundings. This fascinating creatures can catapult itself three meters forward, one meter vertically, and over 10 times its own height. If humans could jump like a jerboa, we would be able to jump almost five stories straight up! The jerboa can do this because its muscles and bones combine into one strong, long bone for extra strength.
Surprisingly, there are other creatures that share the same abilities and characteristics as the dessert jerboa; specifically, three species of jumping mice. Comparing these jumping mice to the jerboa reveals few significant differences. The three species of jumping mice inhabit North America and are excellent bush-climbers and swimmers.
The desert jerboa is a curious creature. Who would have known that something so small could have such strength!
Encyclopedia of Animals