Creature Feature XXII: Jerboas, and a New Column Concept

This month’s Creature Feature is all about bipedal, hopping rodents, primarily jerboas. You can find it here.

It also introduces something new I’m trying, namely bringing other voices into my pieces. This new concept kicks off with an interview with my labmate Talia Moore. Talia is incredibly excited about and adept at sharing her research with a broad audience, and bringing her voice into this article made it easy to write! She did want me to clarify a couple of things, though:

  1. In the world of biomechanics, “lope” is a technical term that describes the motion of animals like ferrets and wolverines, so it isn’t quite right to say that kangaroos lope.
  2. The article is a little misleading about breeding colonies of jerboas. As Moore puts it, none of the early naturalists “writing creative descriptions about jerboa biology were ever able to get them to breed! Our friend Bjoern Jordan, who was the head of a wildlife center in Dubai, was the first to get them to breed in captivity, and he taught Kim Cooper how to do it…[Cooper] has the only colony that still breeds.”

The piece is based on an interview with Moore, as well as the following articles:

  • A. Brazier Howell 1932, The Saltatorial Rodent Dipodomys. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 67(10) page 388 (thanks to Talia for digging up this reference).
  • Biewener, A.A., and R. Blickhan (1988) Kangaroo rat locomotion: design for elastic energy storage or acceleration? Journal of Experimental Biology 140: 243-255.

See more coverage of the jerboa, including videos like the one below and details of Moore’s research,from Wired.

Finally, “if you have a creature (animal, plant, fungus, anything) that you want to hear more about, let me know — I’ll do my best to bring you the most compelling science about your organism of choice.” So get in touch!

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