On heights and plains: How rodents from different habitats cope with three-dimensional environments?

Zohar Hagbi, David Eilam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dwelling in a specific habitat requires adaptation to the habitat physical and biological properties in order to maximize fitness. Adaptations that are manifested in the organization of behavior in time and space reflect how the environment is perceived and utilized. Testing species from different habitats in the same laboratory environment can uncover the differences in their behavior and their adaptations to specific habitats. The question posed in this study is that of how two rodent species, one occupying flatlands (Tristram’s jird; Meriones tristrami) and the other occupying structured rocky habitats (common spiny mouse; Acomys dimidiatus), differ in the way that they explore the same three-dimensional laboratory environment. Individuals of these two species were introduced into an arena with a five-level ziggurat in the center, and their behavior was followed for 60 min. We found that both species preserved the typical spatiotemporal rodents’ behavior of establishing a home-base—a location that is a terminal from which they set out to explore the environment. However, the jirds, which live in flatlands, mainly travelled on the arena floor and the lower levels of the ziggurat; while, in contrast, the spiny mice, which live in rocky habitats and are used to climbing, mostly remained and travelled on the ziggurat, with some of them hardly descending to the arena floor. We suggest that the distinction in spatial behavior between the two species reflects their different motor abilities, different depth perception, and different umvelt (perceived world), in accordance with their different natural habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265176
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2022


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