03 July 2022

Fat Sand Rats – Khursaniyah

I went to an area near Khursaniyah in late-June where I had seen Fat Sand Rat Psammomys obesus four years ago. I wanted to go again to see if I could get better views of the animals and try to obtain better photos. I left at 03:00 to get to the site by first light and could not initially find the area where I had previously found the animals. I looked in areas with plants, but with no success, until I eventually found the previous location at 06:00 hrs. I concentrated looking at the back of the enclosure and could not see anything when I noticed an animal partly out of a burrow at the front. I took a couple of photos before it quickly disappeared. I stayed looking and found six more animals, including a pair digging a burrow and eventually the close Fat Sand Rat reappeared but never came fully out of its burrow. Its upper parts are reddish-brown, reddish, yellowish or sandy buff and the underparts are yellowish, buffy or whitish. The subspecies that lives in Saudi Arabia is P. o. dianae. The sturdy limbs bear blackish claws and the short, stout tail that is fully haired and has a black terminal tuft. The small, rounded ears are covered with dense whitish to yellowish hair. This species communicates through high-pitched squeaks and by drumming its feet. They are found in North Africa and the Middle East and have been recorded in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. They inhabit deserts, semi-desert, rocky habitats and grasslands, provided that succulent shrubs, on which the rat feeds, are present.