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Gundis: Ctenodactylidae

Mzab Gundi (massoutiera Mzabi): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Mzab gundis are yellow or brown in color with flat, round ears that are flattened against their heads and do not move. They have powerful limbs and bushy tails. They have rough, friction pads on their feet that help them climb rocks and almost vertical surfaces. These pads can also stand extreme heat. Bristles above their claws help them when they dig through sand and also when grooming themselves. They have long, thick fur to keep them warm during cold winters. The females weigh more than the males, adult males weighing around 6 ounces (171 grams), and adult females weighing around 6.7 ounces (190 grams). Their length, which includes their head and body, is 6 to 10 inches (15 to 26 centimeters). Their tail is about 1.4 inches (3.6 centimeters) long.

Mzab gundis are active for most of the day. When it is very hot, they rest in the shade, and if it is cold and wet, they stay inside their burrows. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Mzab gundis live in the central Sahara Desert in Algeria, northern Niger, northwestern Chad, northeastern Mali, and southwestern Libya.

Habitat: Mzab gundis can be found in rock outcrops in mountainous areas above the Sahara Desert. They live in rock crevices and have many temporary shelters that they use.

Diet: Mzab gundis eat leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds. They sometimes drink water, but they also obtain it just from eating plants.

Behavior and reproduction: Mzab gundis sleep during the night and forage in the early morning. They are active for most of the day, with the exception of when it becomes very hot, which is when they seek out shade. Their main activities are grooming and sunbathing. When they are grooming, a hind leg strokes the body while their other legs provide balance. They do not come out of their shelters when it is cold or wet. They communicate with chirps, but not very often. Even though males of the same and different groups can show aggressive behavior toward one another, Mzab gundis live in family groups that form close ties to one another. This can be seen especially in the fact that females will help out one another during pregnancy and when they are giving birth.

Young are usually born anywhere from March to June. Within an hour of their birth, young are roaming and sunbathing. They weigh around 0.7 ounces (20 grams) and have an adult weight within three months of being born.

If approached by a predator, Mzab gundis lie motionless on their side with their legs stretched out, their mouth half open, and their eyes wide open, so they look like they are dead. They will take flight after about two to three minutes of staying in this position.

Mzab gundis and people: Mzab gundis do not typically interact with people.

Conservation status: Mzab gundis are not globally threatened. ∎



Alderton, David. Rodents of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1996.

Delany, M.J. "Rodents." In Reader's Digest Encyclopedia of Animals, edited by Dr. Harold G. Cogger, et al. Sydney, Australia: Weldon Own Pty Limited, 1993.

Gould, Dr. Edwin, and McKay, Dr. George, eds. Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.

Nowak, Ronald M. "Gundis." In Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Web sites:

Myers, P. "Ctenodactylidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ctenodactylidae.html (accessed on May 22, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsGundis: Ctenodactylidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Mzab Gundi (massoutiera Mzabi): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, GUNDIS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS