Spinifex hopping mouse
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|Spinifex hopping mouse|
The spinifex hopping mouse (Notomys alexis), also known as the tarkawara or tarrkawarra, occurs throughout the central and western Australian arid zones, occupying both spinifex-covered sand flats and stabilised sand dunes, and loamy mulga and melaleuca flats.
The population fluctuates greatly: in normal years it is sparsely distributed and probably confined to sandy country; after rain the population explodes and spreads to other types of habitat for a time.
They are mostly seen at night, bounding across open ground on their large hind feet, with tails extended and the body almost horizontal.
The appearance is very similar to the northern hopping mouse: a little larger than a common house mouse at 95 to 115 mm (3.7 to 4.5 in) head-body length and an average weight of 35 g (1.2 oz). As with all hopping mice, the hind legs are greatly elongated, the fore limbs small, and the brush-tipped tail very long—about 140 mm (5.5 in). The fur is chestnut or fawn above, pale below, with a grey wash about the muzzle and between the eye and ear, and longer, coarse black guard hairs on the back. The tail is sparsely furred and pink, darker above than below.
Spinifex hopping mice live in small family groups of up to 10 in (250 mm) deep, humid burrow systems. Typically, there is a large nest chamber lined with small sticks and other plant material about a metre below the surface, from which several vertical shafts lead upwards. Shaft entrances do not have spoil heaps.
Adults emerge at dusk and spread out individually for some hundreds of metres, on all fours when moving slowly, on the hind legs alone at speed, foraging for seeds, roots, green shoots, and invertebrates.
Breeding can be at any time of year depending on conditions, with spring being favoured. Pregnancy usually takes 38–41 days but can be extended significantly if the mother is still suckling the previous brood. Litters of 3 or 4 are typical, 6 being the maximum. The young remain in the nest while the female forages; if they wander both male and female adults retrieve them. They reach sexual maturity in about two and a half months. A male spinifex hopping mouse tries to mate with as many partners as he can to satisfy his sexual hunger.
The spinifex hopping mouse is widespread and although the population fluctuates considerably, is not considered at risk.
Previously, spinifex hopping mice could be kept as pets in Victoria (Australia), but a Basic Wildlife License was required. In 2013, Victorian regulations for the possession, use and trade of wildlife underwent a number of changes and as part of these reforms spinifex hopping mice were moved to Schedule 4B, which allows private ownership without a license. Commercial breeding still requires a licence to prevent removal of mice form the wild.
- "Wildlife regs 2013". Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- Morris, K.; Moseby, K. E.; Burbidge, A.; and Robinson, T. (2008). "Notomys alexis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- A guide to the care of Spinifex Hopping Mice - Linda Dennis & Anne Fowler