It’s called a bipedal jerboa, and it’s basically a rodent with kangaroo legs.
Its legs give it incredible speed and leaping abilities, which, as you can see, make it pretty hard to catch. In fact, they can run at 14 miles per hour. Some species of jerboa can jump over 6 feet. Apart from their feet, their other obvious kangaroo-like characteristic is their ears. As you may expect, they have incredible hearing, meaning they can evade most predators before they are sighted. However, sometimes owls are able to catch them.
There’s another survival mechanism that the jerboa uses, that isn’t immediately noticeable. A recent study showed that when they are being chased, they use one of three different running techniques to escape predators: hopping, running and skipping. Once they have run a distance in one of the techniques, they switch to one of the others and go in a different direction. Often they also zigzag erratically after switching technique. These changes in running style confuse predators, increasing the odds of the Jerboa getting away. The evolutionary biologist who discovered this trait, Talia Moore, said “We found that the bipedal jerboas were much more unpredictable [than other rodents]… This increased unpredictability likely arises from their unique gait use and gives them an edge in the evolutionary arms race between predator and prey.”
A less obvious, but no less important, kangaroo-like feature of the jerboa is its foramen magnum. This is a hole in its skull that its spinal cord runs into. While humans and most other bipedal animals have this hole, in jerboas and kangaroos it is specially sloped, which makes them much more agile.
Their long tails keep them balanced by acting as a stabilizer, which is actually similar to how velociraptors likely used their tails. A jerboa’s tail is sometimes longer than its own head and body. A researcher in the 1800s actually cut off a jerboa’s tail to see what would happen. The inhumane experiment resulted in the jerboa not being able to do anything at all, which is to say, they very much rely on their tails for locomotion.
They mainly live in hot deserts throughout Northern Africa and Asia, to Northern China and Manchuria. And they mostly eat plants and sometimes beetles. They are nocturnal, spending most of the daytime in their burrows. Like a rich person with cash to burn, they can have up to four homes. They have permanent summer burrows, where they raise their babies; permanent winter burrows, for hibernation; temporary night burrows and temporary day burrows, which are both used for hunting.
While Jerboas are solitary animals, they can communicate via pheromones. They do this by something called “dust bathing.” Basically, it boils down to the jerboa rolling around in the sand, releasing pheromones that through smell convey a certain message, such as “this is my territory.” Biologists also speculate that they can communicate in some form via sounds or vibrations, due to their large ears.
Also, mating wise, biologists think that they’re polygynous. No, not polygamous, like you would expect of most animals, but polygynous, which is where a single male has a range of partners that only mate with him. It would be like a hareem, except that they are not a closely associated group.
They tend to live around 6 years, which is four years longer than the typical mouse.
They sure are cute. Just don’t call it a gerbil.