The Spinifex hopping mouse (Notomys alexis) is the most widespread of all hopping mice, found throughout the arid regions of Central Australia and Western Australia, mainly areas of sandy soil.
Although they are mainly found in arid regions of spiny spinifex, they can also be found in open Eucalypt woodland, Acacia shrubland and tussock grassland, especially when there is a population explosion, after some good rain.
Being nocturnal, they are seen at night. During the day they shelter in deep humid burrows of up to one metre and in colonies of up to 10 individuals may reside in each burrow system. They breed all year round, but mainly in spring.
The spinifex hopping mouse has elongated hind legs, small fore limbs and tuft of hair at the end of its tail, a brush-tip tail. These features allow it to make quick bounding and zig-zag movements to escape predators. They have large black eyes, light brown fur and grey to white belly and a throat pouch.
The average weight is about 35 gm, with a body length of up to 115 mm and a long tail of about 140 mm. They live between 4-6 years.
Their diet consists of seeds, roots, green shoots and invertebrates. Their main predators are owls, dingoes, feral cats and feral foxes.
The mouse’s most unique feature is their ability to conserve water in Australia’s harsh desert climate. It has the most efficient, albeit tiny kidneys, that allow them to produce the most concentrated urine of any mammal ever recorded. Whilst they get most of their water from the things they eat, the kidneys recycle and re-absorb water from this food. Resulting in a urine that’s quite solid, consisting of only the waste material to be gotten rid of from their body.
There are five species of hopping mice, all with long, narrow hind legs. The species include Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse (Notomys mitchellii), Dusky Hopping Mouse (Notomys fuscus), Fawn Hopping Mouse (Notomys cervinus), Northern Hopping Mouse (Notomys aquilo) and the Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis).
The Spinifex Hopping Mouse looks similar to the northern hopping-mouse, but is found in the arid zone of Central Australia.
Images © Greg Sully
- Scientific classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Rodentia
- Family: Muridae
- Genus: Notomys
- Species: N. alexis
- Binomial name: Notomys alexis