Rhombomys opimus

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Rhombomys opimus

This very widely distributed species is present in Iran, Central Asia, western South Asia, China and Mongolia. It is widespread in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and appears to have a smaller distribution in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In South Asia, it has been recorded from northern Afghanistan and western Pakistan (Baluchistan).

In China the species is very widespread, and has been recorded from Xinjiang, Nei Mongol, Gansu, Ningxia and western Gansu. it has been recorded from desert and semi-desert habitats across southern Mongolia, including the Dzungarian Govi Desert, Trans Altai Govi Desert, Alashani Govi Desert, Northern Govi, and Eastern Govi. Shargyn Govi in southern Govi Altai Mountain Range represents the northern limit of its range in Mongolia (Mallon, 1985).

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Muridae
  • Subfamily: Gerbillinae
  • Genus: Rhombomys
  • Species: R. opimus
  • Binomial name: Rhombomys opimus


opimus lives in large colonies composed of many subgroups. These subgroups are believed to be offspring of mother/father pairs within the colony. During the winter these large groups huddle together to keep warm when temperatures become critically low outside. They rely on the stable underground temperatures (20 to 25 C) which exist in their burrows. This species does not hibernate, although its activity is reduced during the winter months. These gerbils are mainly diurnal.


Great gerbils are found in arid habitats, predominantly in sandy or clay deserts. They are found in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.


It is a diurnal, fossorial, colonial often seen associated with other gerbils. In China, the species occupies desert to semi-desert habitat, and is most successful in dry river beds dominated with shrubby vegetation (Smith and Xie 2008). In South Asia, it has been recorded from apple orchards and clay-sandy embankments. It has been found to occupy steppe mountains and upland deserts and sand dunes with scattered vegetation, in South Asia (Molur et al. 2005).


Maximum longevity: 4.5 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, it has been estimated that these animals live up to 4 years. One wild born specimen was 4-5 years old when it died in captivity.


  • Gerbils build extensive networks of underground tunnels. They spend most of their time in these burrows, only tending to leave to find food and water.
  • Gerbils’ whole bodies, including their tails, are covered with fur. This is important for protecting them from getting sun-burnt in the hot desert regions.
  • Rather than using water, gerbils wash using sand. They roll around in the sand, which gets any debris off them and leaves them with a smoother and shinier coat.

Rhombomys opimus images

Also more: Meriones (rodent)

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