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Indian Desert Jird

The word ‘rodent’ brings up images of rats that chew gaping holes in your favourite dress or bite the wiring in the house steeping your evening in darkness. And the first thought is to eliminate them… as soon as possible!

This attitude is based on our limited exposure or interaction with just two or three species of rodents. Rodents are a very large group indeed. In fact, they account for about 40% of all mammals on Planet Earth – that would be a whopping 2000 or so species! Believe me – they are not all as bad as you think.

A couple of years ago, I had narrated my observation about and interaction with the Long-tailed Tree Mouse. That was just one of the several interesting encounters that I have had with rodents.

More recently during a visit to Rajasthan, I had the opportunity not only to photograph but also observe the Indian Desert Jird Meriones hurrianae for short periods of time over a couple of days. Even without realizing, I had developed a liking for this absolutely adorable little creature and its mannerisms.

I was trying to photograph a very active lizard when I got my first glimpse of the Indian Desert Jird. I saw something pop out of the ground and disappear quickly. This was repeated a couple of times in quick succession. Suddenly, I saw sand flying – yes, the little fellow was busy burrowing! So a short wait at the same spot was in order. Sitting in the hot, harsh noon sun was hard. The jird itself was happily going about its duties in the shade of a bush. The wait was rewarded.

Peeping out of its burrow from under the bush.

Peeping out of its burrow from under the bush.

 

The Desert Jird, over the next half hour or so, continued digging, after which it stopped showing up. From the corner of my eye, I noticed something raise its head a few feet away. When I turned to get a better view, it disappeared. It came up again and started digging at the new burrow. This little rodent surprised me by surfacing from several burrows in the vicinity. And each time it came up, it assumed the characteristic posture that reminded me of the meerkats of Africa.

Checking out before continuing with the chores.

Checking out before continuing with the chores.

 

On a couple of occasions, the jird even ran in the open, out of one hole only to enter another one nearby!

Running between entrances.

Running between entrances.

 

When the digging was done, it picked up a little red fruit and made a meal of it in a jiffy.

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

 

Over the next few days I observed it feeding on plants too! Jirds are known to eat seeds, roots and also insects.

A different diet this time.

A different diet this time.

 

I also noticed another individual sharing the burrow. These diurnal rodents, in fact, can have a colony of up to 20 individuals.

More the merrier!

More the merrier!

 

A friend (Mr.Manish Vaidya) who was also observing and photographing these endearing jirds managed to freeze a couple of frames depicting some interaction between individuals sharing a burrow. So little is known about the behaviour of these little creatures that I can at best indulge in some conjecture.

Perhaps allogrooming!

Perhaps allogrooming!

 

Cuddling up?

Cuddling up?

 

The jirds are terrestrial creatures living in burrows – actually one complex underground burrow complete with interconnecting tunnels and multiple entrances on the surface! The picture below is that of the burrow which is located at the base or in the vicinity of a bush where the soil is a bit hard and not very sandy.

A typical Jird burrow.

A typical Jird burrow.

 

As the name suggests, the Desert Jird is found in the desert (arid) regions of Northwest India. Consequently, its distribution spans Rajasthan (mainly the Thar Desert) and the Kutch regions of Gujarat.

 

The very fact that they are so diverse a group means that they have an important role to play in their respective habitats. At the end of the day, it is important for us to realize that not all rodents are bad. A little time spent trying to understand them will only be enriching.

 

You can see more images of the Indian Desert Jird here.

  • Ramya

    Cute little fellow indeed! Thanks for a lively post Karthik.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      They and their mannerisms are adorable indeed.

  • http://theforestspirit.wordpress.com/ Anisha Jayadevan

    Lovely. :)

  • Uma Bharath

    Thanks for this post. Had never heard of Jirds before. Are they related to Gerbils?

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Yes. Both Jirds and Gerbils belong to the same subfamily Gerbillinae (Family Muridae).

  • Uma K

    Very cute indeed!! Lovely post and pics!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Uma.

  • Badri

    Sparkling piece, Karthik. Especially liked the mix of keen personal observation and species information.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Badri. The Jirds were not particularly shy and therefore it was not too difficult to observe them. .

  • Anand

    Another sparkling piece from your treasure trove… Loved reliving those moments of having seen this active and interesting creature, via your images n narrative! Thanks for another great article.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Anand. Am sure you have more interesting things to share from all your travel and experiences from the desert.

  • Jayshree Murali

    what a nice narrative , unfolds so gently…

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Jayshree.

  • http://www.natureclicks.in/ Saandip Nandagudi

    Lovely photos with narration sir..

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Saandip.

  • Deepa Mohan

    Reading your blog is always educative! Yes, my idea of rodents was a little more limited before reading this blog entry.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Deepa. Like I have mentioned, rodents are a very large group and many have very interesting lifestyles …if only we have the time to appreciate it.

  • Arijit Banerjee

    As always… delightful narrative and an educative read.

    BTW guys met the crowd in Tal this time round :-)

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thank you very much. It was a pleasant surprise to have met at Tal Chhapar. Should meet like that more often!