We are all familiar with the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood: With her keen eye for detail, she becomes suspicious of her seemingly innocent grandmother’s appearance. Among the Wolf’s various peculiarities, the large ears and eyes caught her attention, prompting her to ask about them. It is at this moment that the Wolf claims that these exaggerated features are necessary to better hear and see her.
Could this also explain why the Euchoreutes naso possesses large ears and eyes? Or could their unusual bodily features lead to other different benefits?
“WHAT A PECULIAR BODY YOU HAVE!”
Celebrated as the most odd-looking among the 33 Jerboa species, the Long-Eared Jerboa seems to have sprung from a Disney fairy tale. One is reminded of Mickey Mouse upon seeing them because of their large ears and eyes. Moreover, their large ears account for approximately two-thirds of their total body length. This earned them one of the most notable ear-to-body ratios within the animal kingdom.
As if nature bestowed them with uniqueness, they exhibit yet other notable anatomical peculiarities involving their hind legs and tail. Their hind legs are astonishingly fourfold longer compared to their front limbs, and they hop like a Kangaroo. Their tail stretches to a length twice that of their own body, assuming a crucial role in the Long-Eared Jerboa’s impressively captivating way of life.
JUST JERBOA FUN FACTS
It’s always fascinating to see an animal with a differently-proportioned body, but it’s even more fun to understand why they look this way.
THE BIGGER, THE BETTER
Something becomes apparent when we consider the Long-Eared Jerboa’s auditory and visual advantages.
Their eyes and ears, much like the fabled Wolf’s in Little Red Riding Hood, are not just fancy features, but also critical adaptations for survival, according to the scholarly write-up of Matthew Mason for the Journal of Anatomy in 2015.
Their large ears enable them with exceptional hearing capabilities to perceive even the faintest of sounds.
Likewise, acute hearing becomes their vital defense mechanism as they live alone in their burrows.
It is noteworthy that Long-Eared Jerboas are crepuscular species. They use both their ears and eyes to navigate better in the dark and to locate flying Insects in arid habitats as mentioned by Douglas A. Kelt in a 2000 study published in the Journal of Mammalogy.
GOING TO GREAT LENGTHS
In 2022, a study by Villacís Núñez and colleagues published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences mentioned the hind leg adaptation of Jerboas that empowers them with exceptional leaping capabilities.
This disproportion allows them to defy gravity, propelling them skyward with unmatched grace and speed to hunt, according to Talia Moore and team in a 2015 study published in Current Biology.
Likewise, it allows them to navigate faster on sand to hunt Lizards who sleep on the ground.
Jumping heights of up to six feet have been observed in certain Jerboa species, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), although the exact leaping abilities of the Long-Eared Jerboa remain undetermined.
A TALE ABOUT TAILS
They boast a considerably lengthy tail, characterized by a unique tufted tip in black and white, as described in an article by Nicole Swanson for Animal Diversity Web. This elongation serves a crucial purpose that counterbalances them, providing unparalleled control over their body orientation during aerial locomotion.
Witnessing their nimble movements, one cannot help but appreciate the intricate evolutionary adaptations that allow these creatures to maneuver through their environment with remarkable dexterity.
The elongated tail serves as a counterbalance. The tufted black-and-white tip makes their already unique features even more so!
MAMMALS WHO DON’T DRINK
According to WWF, the Long-Eared Jerboas can be found inhabiting the regions spanning Southern Mongolia to northwest China, usually in deserts near oases or valleys.
They also forage in areas with scarce vegetation, where they primarily subsist as insectivores.
Long-Eared Jerboas do not drink water! Their hydration primarily depends on their diet: plants and Insects.
EDGE OF EXISTENCE
The Long-Eared Jerboas play a vital role in preserving the biodiversity of their habitat. However, their population is constantly threatened by human activities.
In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature designated the Long-Eared Jerboa as a critically endangered species of least concern, according to their Red List classification.
Despite this status, scientific research regarding their behavior, population trends, threats, and conservation efforts is relatively limited and is needed for further exploration.