Spinifex hop­ping-mouse

Australian Geographic - - Your Society -

No­to­mys alexis M: 95-112mm F: same

AF­TER DRENCH­ING rains, out­back Aus­tralia’s dunes come alive at night with spinifex hop­ping-mice feast­ing on seeds. They scurry about like typ­i­cal mice un­til a preda­tor ap­pears, when they bound away on long hind limbs, like tiny kan­ga­roos, mak­ing for the near­est bur­row or shrub.

Well adapted for desert life, they sleep by day in bur­rows and can sur­vive with­out drink­ing, ob­tain­ing all their wa­ter from their food. Aus­tralia once had 10 hop­ping-mouse species: five are now ex­tinct and two are rare. Buck­ing the trend, the spinifex hop­ping-mouse re­mains com­mon.

Ro­dents are an im­por­tant food source for birds of prey, snakes, din­goes and other preda­tors. But there was much sur­prise in 2015 when some salmon cat­fish taken from the Ash­bur­ton River in WA were found to have spinifex hop­ping­mice in their stom­achs. It was sug­gested that hop­ping-mouse bur­rows on the river bank had col­lapsed coll into the wa­ter.

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