The Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), also called the Egyptian spiny mouse, common spiny mouse, or Arabian spiny mouse, is a well-known nocturnal species of a rodent under the family Muridae.
It is native to Africa north of the Sahara, where hot deserts and rocky areas are its natural habitats. The Cairo spiny mouse is a social animal, and it lives in small groups.
The Acanthocephalan intestinal parasite called Moniliformis acomysi, is believed to be hosted by the Cairo spiny mouse. Due to its population size and wide distribution, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
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The Cairo spiny mouse grows up to 95 – 127 mm (3.75 – 5 in) in head and body length. The tail is just as long as the head to body length. Adults weigh between 43 – 85 g (1.5 – 3 oz).
The colour of the Cairo spiny mouse is greyish-brown, sandy-brown above but is whitish beneath. The snout is pointed and slender, the ears are slightly pointed and large, the eyes are large, and the tail lacks hair.
Mating takes place in the rainy season, between September – April, which when food is abundant. The gestation period is 5 – 6 weeks, which is unusually long for a mouse, which means the young will be fully developed when they are born.
They are born with short fur and their eyes open. They begin to explore their surrounding after birth.
The young are cared for by the adults in the group, whereby lactating females feed any offspring in the group. After giving birth, females become pregnant again and have 3 or 4 litters of up to 5 young in a year.
The juveniles mature at 2 – 3 months of age. The lifespan of a Cairo spiny mouse is 4 years.
They are omnivorous and nocturnal, eating any edible substance they can find. Their diet includes desert plants, seeds, insects, snails, fruits, nuts, spiders, green leaves, carrion, and molluscs.
They consume grains, crops, and stored food when they live close to human’s vicinity. They dislike cold weather and may enter houses during winter.
The Cairo spiny mouse acts as a seed dispersal agent for the fruit of Ochradenus baccatus (Reseda baccata), which has distasteful seeds, but pleasant tasting flesh. The Cairo spiny mouse eats the fruits but spits out the seeds.
Habitat and distribution
Cairo spiny mice live in rock crevices or burrows. They are known to move about in low bushes. It is native to northern Africa regions, and they include Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, and Eritrea.
The Cairo spiny mouse occurs at altitudes up to 4,900 ft (1,500 m).
It commonly found in gravelly plains with shrubby vegetation and around canyons and cliffs. It may be found among date palms but not in sandy habitats.