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Cactus Mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) Cactus Mice are found in habitats with sandy soil and scattered vegetation, from low deserts to rocky foothills. They typically live in burrows, but are also found on the surface in piles of debris, vegetation, or rock crevices. They are active at night, feeding on seeds, insects, and green vegetation, and can become torpid during the day.
They may estivate (become dormant, with metabolic rate lowered) during hotter and drier months, so as to reduce water loss. In her lifetime, which is probably about a year, a female can bear three or four litters of up to four young.
Measurements: Size, Medium; tail distinctly longer than head and body. Weight: Ranges from 18 to 40 g. Total length is 160 to 211 mm; length of tail, 84 to 120; length of body, 72 to 100; hind foot, 18 to 22; length of ear, 13.4 to 20.0; greatest length of skull, 22.7 to 25.9; and zygomatic breadth, 11.2 to 13.5.
Habits: These mice are restricted almost entirely to a desert habitat, especially where rocky outcrops or cliffs offer retreats and den sites. In the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, they typically occur at the bases of cliffs or in rocky outcroppings at elevations below 1,200 m. They are expert at climbing and can scramble up stone walls and cliffs with ease. They have been observed foraging in mesquite trees 1-2 m off the ground, and there is some evidence that they also climb hackberry trees and gather the seeds. Richard MacMillen and others have observed that populations of P. eremicus are high in numbers in midwinter and very low in numbers in midsummer.
Both in the field and in the laboratory, led him to conclude that cactus mice aestivate in their burrows during the summer. By employing torpor as a water-conserving device and as a means of prolonging food stores, the mice escape the most rigorous annual period of the desert. By virtue of the ability to aestivate, cactus mice are probably able to successfully inhabit severe desert situations in which they otherwise would be unable to survive.
Life Cycle:The gestation period for Cactus Mouse is 20 to 25 days. Litter size is 1 to 4 offspring and average weight at birth is 2.1 to 2.9 grams. Females may have up to 4 litters per year. The female has two pairs of teats rather than three, which has been suggested to correlate with the number of offspring.
The weaning period is unknown. Females reach sexual maturity after about two months, and the age of male sexual maturity is unknown. The average age for the female cactus mouseâ€™s first estrus is 39.2 days. Females have been observed to reproduce continuously and year round, and specifically during January, February, June, and September in central Arizona.
Young cactus mouse penes were found to have three bluish cartilaginous condensations near the tip of a well-ossified baculum. One condensation was located at the apex and two were located laterally, where the normal distal prongs in a complex penis would occur.
The breeding season extends at least from January to October and possibly throughout the year. The number of young per litter varies from one to four, averaging about three, and two or more litters may be reared each year. A captive female is known to have produced three litters in a year. The cactus mouse has only two pairs of milk glands, so only four young can be nursed at one time. Most white-footed mice have three pairs. The gestation period is 21 days. At birth the young are blind, pigmented dorsally, and not pink. They weigh about 2.5 g. They develop quite rapidly; the ears unfold in less than 24 hours, and the eyes open in 15-17 days. Because the litters are never produced in quick succession, the young may be nursed for as long as 30-40 days.
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