13 May 2024

Libyan Jird colony – Khafra Marsh

I set off from home at 03:50 in early May to get to Jubail for first light. By 05:00 just as it was getting light, but there was little activity in the area I had seen them previously. I just saw one Jird run very fast and down a burrow and then nothing more for half an hour. I then decided to look further down the road to see if I could see any activity and saw a single Cheesman’s Gerbil, running around under a small bush. This was the first time I have seen this species, but it stayed in the cover and I was unable to get any photos of it. In Saudi Arabia they are common in the desert. Later I did manage to see a large number of Libyan Jird Meriones libycus with the animals habituated to the noise of the passing vehicles but depart rapidly when they hear any other unusual sound. I stayed a couple of hours looking at and photographing the animals and a couple were so close I could not focus the camera on them. As previously I saw a few animals with the tips of their tails missing. The Libyan Jird is one of the most widely distributed species among rodents, ranging across nearly the entire Palearctic Desert belt from Morocco in Northwest Africa to China. It occupies desert and semidesert habitats, generally in areas with stabilized dunes. It becomes most abundant in unflooded river plains, and it is often found close to wadies and occasionally in arable land. Fifteen subspecies were described but their validity and the phylogenetic relationships among them are uncertain. A recent study defined subspecies limits within Meriones libycus into three allopatric lineages within M. libycus: Western lineage in North Africa, Central lineage in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria, and Eastern lineage in Iran, Afghanistan, and China. The results support the existence of at least three subspecies within the libyan jird: African Meriones libycus libycus, Levant-Arabian M. l. syrius, and Eastern Meriones libycus erythrourus.