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Spiny Mice

Another interesting species of Old World mice in the spiny mouse (Acomys). As the name implies, their backs are covered with spiny, bristle-like hairs. These mice live throughout the dry environments of northern India and Africa; specifically, they live in deserts, prairies, and savannas. One species lives on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. They normally eat dried plants, small insects and spiders, and have even been discovered eating the dried remains of Egyptian mummies.

Like their fur, their tails are spiny. Notably, like lizards, their tails can be broken from their bodies rather easily. When a predator catches this mouse, it is often very surprised when it is left with only the animal's tail. Unlike lizards, however, the spiny mice can never grow tails to replace the ones they lose.

The breeding behavior of spiny mice and their maturity level at birth are significantly different from other species of mice. Spiny mice are pregnant for five or six weeks, rather than the three to four week period experienced by other mice During the birth of offspring, other female spiny mice in the group help with the delivery process by chewing through the umbilical cord and by licking the placentas from the newborns. Often, these "midwives" try to claim the young as their own. A few days later, however, the young are treated as the common children of the community, nursed by every mother and accepted everywhere. Incredibly, the new mother is fertile again by the evening of the same day she delivers and is usually re-impregnated at this time. Unlike other mice, spiny mice are not naked, blind, and helpless at birth. Instead, they appear strong, covered with sparse hair, and their eyes are usually open. At three days old, they start to investigate their surroundings.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Methane to Molecular clockMice - New World Mice (hesperomyinae), Deer Mice, House Mice, Wood Mice, Spiny Mice - Old World mice (Murinae)