The lesser Egyptian jerboa is a strictly nocturnal species, feeding on seeds, insects and succulent parts of desert grasses, which it detects using its acute sense of smell. Amazingly, it does not need to drink in order to survive the arid desert conditions, relying on its food to provide it with all its water needs (4) (5) (6). The lesser Egyptian jerboa can travel long distances in search of food, up to ten kilometres a day, which it easily covers thanks to its large feet and hopping stride; the jerboa is known to leap up to three metres in a single bound (6).
The lesser Egyptian jerboa lives in burrows, dug in counter clockwise spirals with its forelimbs and teeth, which it uses for a variety of functions. The permanent burrows are often complex systems with multiple entrances and exits, consisting of storage chambers, hibernation chambers and a nesting chamber at the very bottom. The burrows are well-hidden and sealed with a plug of sand in late spring and summer to keep the heat out and moisture in, providing an ideal place for the animal to rest, evade predators and escape from the heat of the day. During particularly hot or dry spells the jerboa will aestivate in the burrow and in winter it is thought to hibernate, but this has only been reported in a few individuals (5) (6) (7).
Not much is known about the breeding habits of jerboas due to their solitary and nocturnal nature. However, breeding is known to occur at least twice a year, between June to July and from October to December. Males attempt to attract females by performing a bizarre ritual display; standing on its hind legs in front of an approaching female, the male faces his potential mate and then begins to slap the female at regular intervals with his short front limbs. A successful mating usually produces a litter of four to five young that become independent at around eight to ten weeks, and sexually mature at eight to twelve months (1) (8). On the whole, the lesser Egyptian jerboa is silent but when disturbed or handled it can emit grunting noises or shrill shrieks (6).