Though the name of the Libyan jird, Meriones libycus, implies it is somehow special to Libya, this adaptable rodent can be found all across Northern Africa and even into western China! From hot deserts, tropical shrub-lands, and even domestic gardens, this species of jird can make pretty much any environment inhabitable . Because of its mainly herbivorous diet, it can make its home as long as sufficient amounts of vegetation is present.
The Libyan jird is a social animal that tends to form small colonies, but it has been reported that some prefer to live individually. They live in burrows made up of a complex network of tunnels which may extend up to 1.5 metres underground and several metres outwards. This little creature likes to plan ahead, and tiny “warehouses”, chambers which colonies may use store up to 10 kg of seed, are also included as part of the burrow’s construction . They sometimes travel locally from burrow to burrow, and when doing so, they stick their tails up in the air and run quickly, spending as little time in the open as possible .
The diet of the Libyan jird primarily consists of seeds, leaves, and little fruits. They have a preference for grass seeds, although they aren’t particularly picky. They have been known to consume insects in some cases. In areas under human cultivation such as farms or gardens, they will happily feed on any crop. The Libyan jird is known to devastate agricultural areas near their habitats, especially potato and tomato crops. For this reason, they are considered as serious pests by farmers .
The Libyan jird is highly abundant and found across a wide range, and as such is considered as a species of ‘Least Concern’ by IUCN. Libyan jirds are among the several species of gerbils which are kept as pets, although it is not known if this has an impact on the population.
Today, we release the chromosome-length assembly for the Libyan jird, Meriones libycus! This was a $1K assembly, for more details on our assembly procedure, please see our Methods page. The sample used for this assembly was a primary fibroblast cell line provided by the T.C. Hsu Cryo-Zoo, originally frozen back in 1988. We thank Drs. Asha Multani, Sen Pathak, Richard Behringer, Liesl Nel-Themaat and Arisa Furuta in the Department of Genetics at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for their help with this sample!
We here at the DNA Zoo think rodents are rad! We're happy to welcome the Libyan jird to our released collection, bringing our total to 26 chromosome-length rodent assemblies. Browse the 22 chromosomes (2n=44) of the Libyan jird in the interactive Juicebox.js session below!