Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Vampire Of The Desert

The long-eared jerboa, a tiny nocturnal mammal with enormous ears, can be found in deserts in Mongolia and China has been caught on camera for the first time.

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) scientist Jason Baillie said the footage was helping researchers to learn more about the mysterious animal.

Filmed in the Gobi desert the species is classified as endangered.

"These creatures hop just like a kangaroo; it is amazing to watch. Little hairs on their feet, almost like snow shoes, allow them to jump along the sand," he explained.

"And in terms of mammals, they have one of the biggest ear-to-body ratios out there."

The footage revealed that the creatures spend daylight hours burrowed down in underground tunnels beneath the sand, and that their diet was mostly made up of insects but if they encounter a large mammal they will use their razor sharp teeth to draw blood to feed on.

One of the researchers woke to find numerous cuts on his arm and face, it is thought they can detect infrared body heat signatures at night.
It would certainly account for chicken and goat deaths reported by Nomads over the years as the Jerboa can swarm to over come larger prey when food is scarce.

"The long-eared jerboa is a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure. I don't want to bandy the term vampire about until we study its habits more " Dr Baillie said.

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