Temporal range: Early Pliocene - Present
|A grasshopper mouse eating a beetle|
Grasshopper mice are rodents of the North American genus Onychomys. Grasshopper mice feed on insects and other arthropods.
The three species in this genus of New World mice are only distantly related to the common house mouse, Mus musculus. They are endemic to the United States and Mexico. The southern grasshopper mouse has around a 3.5 to 5.0 inches (8.9–12.7 cm) long body and a tail that is generally 1.0 to 2.5 inches (2.5–6.4 cm) long. Its behavior is rather distinct from other mice.
It is a carnivorous rodent, dining on insects (such as grasshoppers), worms, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, snakes, and even other mice. It also stalks its prey in the manner of a cat, sneaking up quietly, and defends its territory by "howling" like a small wolf. The grasshopper mouse is known to be immune to various venoms released by its prey (scorpions, snakes, etc.).
Grasshopper mice prey on highly venomous centipedes that normally kill mice by injecting deadly toxin through their venomous forcipules. Grasshopper mice move swiftly, while centipedes can only inject their toxin if their prey is held by the centipede's needle-sharp claws. The mouse remains out of reach of the centipede, and attacks it by repeatedly biting through its hard exoskeleton. Each attack on the centipede damages its central nervous system, until the centipede is paralyzed and the grasshopper mouse can eat it safely.
Grasshopper mice tend to have low population densities. They live either alone or in pairs, one male with one female. Very territorial, their average territory size may equal their home range size of about 28 acres.
Their aggressive nature extends beyond their hunting habits: when held in captivity with other mice, they will often kill and eat those other mice.
- Mearns's grasshopper mouse or Chihuahuan grasshopper mouse Onychomys arenicola
- Northern grasshopper mouse, Onychomys leucogaster
- Southern grasshopper mouse, Onychomys torridus
- "Mearns' Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys Arenicola)." Mearns' Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys Arenicola). The Mammals of Texas- Online Edition, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
- Onychomys: Tiny Terror of the Western Deserts
- The Mammals of Texas: Mearns' grasshopper mouse
- The Mammals of Texas: Northern grasshopper mouse
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Genus Onychomys
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