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What Is a Pygmy Jerboa?

Pygmy jerboa live in harsh desert environments.
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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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A pygmy jerboa is a tiny desert rodent, found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They have small heads and bodies, with large eyes, hind legs, and tail. These animals can hop incredible distances of nine feet (2.74 m), with their large hind legs, in order to evade predators. Popularity of this endangered species sparked after videos were released on the internet. Since then, people have been trying to get jerboas as pets, but they are illegal in the U.S.

Thess adorable rodents are members of the Dipodidae family. Their faces resemble that of a rat or a rabbit, topped by small curved ears. They have small, kiwi-shaped bodies that rest on top of two large hind legs. Pygmy jerboas also have two forearms that are not used to walk, but mostly used for eating and grooming. These very cute critters have soft, silky fur on their bodies, and very distinctive long, tufted tails to add to their charm.

Pygmy jerboas have evolved their large hind legs, in order to adapt to the harsh desert environments they hail from. Their primary mode of transportation is hopping, and despite their tiny stature, they can hop considerable distances up to nine feet. This has helped them escape predators, and survive long desert journeys to find food. They are not related, but share many of the same evolutionary traits with kangaroo rats of North America, and hopping mice of Australia, as each of these species survive in similar harsh desert environments.

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Due to its small size, the pygmy jerboa has quite a few natural predators. At the top of the list, are owls. They are both nocturnal creatures, so they are both out hunting for food at the same time. Owls are amazing predators, and can swoop down, almost without a sound, and grab a jerboa sized snack. Pygmy jerboas have evolved incredible hearing, just for this reason.

These little rodents gained large popularity after videos of them were released on the internet. For the first time, the rest of the world was able to see the adorable pygmy jerboa, which are found all over western Pakistan.

Many people seem to instantly fall in love with this desert species and are looking to add them to their exotic pet collection. It is illegal in the U.S. to bring a wild pygmy jerboa from Pakistan or Afghanistan, as they are an endangered species. This hasn't stopped some breeders from showing up in the U.S. and selling them illegally. Some people believe that domesticating jerboas would actually help them survive.

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