The Mountain of Flames in Turpan City, China, known for having the coolest name for a mountain in existence, has a new distinction to add to its credentials: home for the rare long-eared Jerboa.
The long-eared Jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) is a nocturnal rodent that is so unique, it has its own genus (Euchoreutes) and subfamily (Euchoreutinae). It possess disproportionately long legs to hop everywhere, making it resemble a bizarre hybrid of a kangaroo, mouse and rabbit.
Its distinguishing characteristic are its large ears, which are used to help avoid detection by predators such as the small owl.
The long-eared Jerboa lives in desert-like conditions in northwest China and southern Mongolia such as the Gobi Desert, spending the majority of the daylight hours in one of four types of self-constructed burrows and foraging for food at night.
Two temporary burrows are used for daylight and nighttime shelter, while two permanent burrows are used for raising young in the summer and hibernating in the winter.
While many Jerboa species subsist on a diet of nuts and seeds, the long-eared Jerboa is unique in that it is thought to have a diet that consists primarily of insects. Unfortunately, very little is known about the creature, and encroachment of their habitat by humans is threatening their existence.
They are currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and served as one of the top-ten 2007 focal points of EDGE: Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered project.