Indian gerbil

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Indian gerbil
Tatera indica Hardwicke.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Gerbillinae
Genus: Tatera
Lataste, 1882
Species: T. indica
Binomial name
Tatera indica
(Hardwicke, 1807)

The Indian gerbil, Tatera indica, also known as "Antelope rat", is a species of gerbil in the family Muridae. It is found in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria. It is the only species in the genus Tatera. Members of the genus Gerbilliscus have historically been placed in the genus Tatera.

Known as "weli meeya" or වැලි මීයා in Sinhala meaning 'Sand mouse".


Head and body length is 17-20cm. Tail is 20-21cm. Dorsal surface including entire head is light brown or light brown with rusty wash. Underparts are white. Tail fully furred, dark blackish brown with grayish sides and prominent black tuft on tip. Fur on body soft, sparse underneath; tail fur is longer. Eyes are large and prominent. Bounding gait is distinguished when running.[1]


Indian gerbils are prevalent all throughout south Asia, and particularly in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These rodents also sometimes live in more western locations of the Middle East, such as Syria, Iran, Kuwait and Turkey. Indian gerbils can also be found in Afghanistan and Nepal.


Both the sexes of this species lives apart. The relation between male and female gebrils is not known yet.[2]

It is not yet known whether mating occurs above or below ground in burrows. Duration of the estrous cycle was found to be 4.5 days in the laboratory. The gestation period for Indian Gebril ranges from 21 to 30 days, with litter size ranging from 1 to 10 young, with 5 to 6 being the most common number of young per litter. Young Indian gerbils are independent as early as 21 days of age and reach sexual maturity as early as 10 weeks of age. Females attain sexual maturity earlier than males.


Omnivorous. Known to eat grains, seeds, plants, roots, insects, reptiles and even small birds and mammals it can catch up..[1] Insects make up an especially large portion of their diets in monsoon season. Indian gerbils even occasionally consume other tiny rodents.

Ecology & Habitat[edit]

These light brown gerbils are serious about burrowing, and therefore tend to gravitate toward places that allow for it. Indian gerbils burrow for a lot of reasons, which include keeping sustenance tucked away and resting. Some typical environments for these animals are plains with ample sand, grasslands, deciduous forests, hot and arid deserts, scrub forests and very rugged regions. Indian gerbils are especially common in arid and dry climates. It is also not rare to see them in areas of farmland, particularly those that are close to water sources.

Farmers often consider Indian gerbils to be vermin or pests due to the crop destruction they cause. These gerbils often feed on grain, seeds, saplings, corn ears and sprouts when in agricultural sites.[3]

This gerbil's preferred habitat is almost anywhere that is not too sandy, or too cold. In India burrows of Indian Gerbils have been found alongside main streets in the towns, and even in the granaries of the major cities of Pakistan. In Indian villages, they often burrow into hedgerows and mud walls that border the fields. They are very common in areas of human habitation and in Iraq and Syria it is almost only found near villages. In Iran they live more remotely in areas with green vegetation all year round. In Afghanistan they are found near to isolated buildings on the edges of semi-desert areas and in dry stream beds. As high altitude brings colder temperatures they become rarer as the ground rises. In true desert areas such as Rajasthan they avoid shifting sand dunes and prefer the firmer plains.[4]

In the deserts of Northwest India the Indian Gerbil often lives alongside the Indian Desert Gerbil (Meriones hurrianae). This species prefers drier, sandy habitats. The difference between the two species can be seen by the way that M. hurrianae is more common in cultivated fields that are not irrigated, whilst T. indica is more common where the fields are irrigated.

In Culture[edit]

In Southern India and Sri Lanka, it is dug out of its burrows as a source of food, but in the north the animal is thought too small to be worth eating. The Indian Gerbil holds religious significance to many Hindus as it is considered "A vehicle of Lord Ganesh".[5]