Sand rat

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Sand rat
Temporal range: Late Miocene–Recent
Fat sand rat.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Gerbillinae
Genus: Psammomys
Species: P. obesus
Binomial name
Psammomys obesus
Cretzschmar, 1828

Psammomys obesus, known as the sand rat or fat sand rat, is a terrestrial mammal from the gerbil subfamily that is mostly found in North Africa and the Middle East, ranging from Mauritania to the Arabian Peninsula.


This species usually lives in sandy deserts, but may also be found in rocky terrain or saline marsh areas. It lives in burrows, which are often located under the bushes in which the rats forage, such as salt bushes of the family Chenopodiaceae. The sand rat is diurnal, but its activity on the surface depends on the ambient temperature. The sand rat normally has two litters every year; each litter usually comprises three to seven pups.

Sand rat eating Atriplex halimus, Israel

Medical significance[edit]

Although they remain lean when fed their natural, vegetable-based diet, sand rats can easily become obese and acquire type 2 diabetes mellitus when they are fed a normal rodent diet of grains.[2][3][4] Therefore, they have been used as an animal model for studies on diabetes and obesity.

Because they are diurnal, sand rats are also used as models for human seasonal affective disorder.[5]

The presence of sand rats in North Africa and the Middle East is of healthcare importance, as this species can harbor the parasite which causes leishmaniasis in humans.

These animals have been studied extensively for their remarkably efficient kidneys: they can produce very concentrated urine which enables them to eat halophyte plants and survive extreme heat and lack of water in their desert habitat.[6]


  1. ^ S. Aulagnier & L. Granjon (2008). "Psammomys obesus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved May 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ Hackel, D. B.; Frohman, L; Mikat, E; Lebovitz, H. E.; Schmidt-Nielsen, K; Kinney, T. D. (1966). "Effect of diet on the glucose tolerance and plasma insulin levels of the sand rat (Psammomys obesus)". Diabetes. 15 (2): 105–14. PMID 5907154. doi:10.2337/diab.15.2.105. 
  3. ^ Kaiser, N; Cerasi, E; Leibowitz, G (2012). "Diet-Induced Diabetes in the Sand Rat (Psammomys obesus)". Animal Models in Diabetes Research. 933. pp. 89–102. ISBN 978-1-62703-067-0. PMID 22893403. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-068-7_7. 
  4. ^ Kalderon, B; Gutman, A; Levy, E; Shafrir, E; Adler, J. H. (1986). "Characterization of stages in development of obesity-diabetes syndrome in sand rat (Psammomys obesus)". Diabetes. 35 (6): 717–24. PMID 3519325. doi:10.2337/diabetes.35.6.717. 
  5. ^ Tal Ashkenazy; Haim Einat & Noga Kronfeld-Schor (2009). "We are in the dark here: induction of depression- and anxiety-like behaviours in the diurnal fat sand rat, by short daylight or melatonin injections". The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 12 (1): 83–93. PMID 18631427. doi:10.1017/S1461145708009115. 
  6. ^ Mares, Michael A. (1 November 2003). "Desert dreams: seeking the secret mammals of the salt pans - Naturalist at Large" (PDF). Natural History: 29–34. 

External links[edit]