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Algerian Mouse (Mus spretus)

Diputación de Málaga
Ratón moruno MB

Algerian Mouse (Mus spretus)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a small sized (head-body length 10 to 12 cm) rodent (animal with a pair of incisor teeth constantly growing). It has a grey coat, with a slight dorsal dark strip from the head to the tail.  The belly is lighter grey. The head has a rounded snout and a short tail (5 to 7,5 cm) not protruding from the extended hind legs (difference with the house mouse). There is no difference between sexes, although females are slightly smaller than males.

Where does it live?

This is a forest species, not a human's banqueter. Its main populations are located in Northern Africa (Marocco, Algeria and Tunisia). In the Iberian Peninsula it is also present in Portugal and can even rise the Pyrenees. It lives in Mediterranean habitats more arid than the country mice. It avoids meadows and waterlogged areas, as well as places with rainfall more than 10000 mm per year. It prefers low scrub, steppes, forest edges, crops and open spaces in general. It avoids forests and dense scrub areas. It is very common in fire-prone regions, where the scrub has been cleared. It lives from sea level to 1,400 meters above sea level. 

How does it live?

It is an omnivore species, mainly feeding on seeds, whole plants and some invertebrates (worms and larvae). It also consumes acorns and has a special weakness for sugarcane crops. It uses larders to hind food that it will consume later. It has night habits, although it can be more diurnal in winter. It is territorial but does not have underground habits. It builds burrows with tunnels and nests under the vegetation.

How does it reproduce?

The Algerian mice can be active all year round. Its cycle is conditioned by food availability. In normal conditions, it usually has up to three mating periods: in spring, autumn and to a lesser extent in summer. The most common is that they have two births a year, from 2 to 10 offspring which are sexually mature after the 5th month after birth, a bit later in males.

Where can we see it Málaga?

This species is present, common and abundant all over the province. We can find it on almost every stage of the Great Path (Gran Senda).

Curious facts

The word spretus means in Latin "reduced" and makes reference to the fact that the Algerian mouse is  smaller than the house mouse. It has been described in 1833 by the French zoologist Fernand Lataste in Northern África who specially named it the Algerian mouse due to its localisation. This species is used as a bio indicator of contaminated soils. The Algerian mice accumulate genetic anomalies as a soil accumulates discharges of pesticides or heavy metals, so that the measurement of these anomalies in the genome of mice allows assessing the severity impact or degree of soil contamination. These facts have been proven in soils affected by the Aznalcóllar discharges and those of the Huelva chemical pole.

Similar species

It can be confused with the country mouse and most of all with the house mouse. With respect to the domestic mouse: they are easily differentiated by the shorter length of the tail, the more rounded snout (prominent in the domestic mouse) and the less greyish coat in the Moorish mouse. Moreover, it is not a human's banqueter. Regarding the country mouse: they share habitats, although the Algerian mouse is absent from the wettest zones. The Algerian mouse is smaller than the country mouse, it has a more rounded snout, a shorter tail and smaller ears as well as smaller and less striking eyes.

Routes where it can be observed

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