Question: Pebble Herdsman Mouse?

Hello mammal watchers,

I’ve got an intriguing question for you all… I’ve come across an incredible ‘fact’ about the African Pygmy Mouse that I’ve not been able to verify in the scientific literature. Apparently, the mouse stacks up pebbles at the entrance to its burrow as a means of sourcing drinking water during the dry season in East Africa, earning it the local name ‘pebble herdsman’. The pebbles sit at the interface of the warm moist air of the burrow and the cool air outside during the night, which causes dew drops to form on the pebbles that the mouse can lap up in the morning – has anyone ever heard of this?

The behaviour is described in a sequence in the wildlife film ‘A Season in the Sun’ (1989) (see screenshot), and in a few scattered blog posts, which may all be referencing each other. I’d love to hear from someone who can confirm or deny this story, so let me know what you think. Was it made up for TV or could this be a true under-studied drought-adapted behaviour?



  • Chris & Mathilde Stuart

    We know the species well from arid areas in western southern African and have never encountered this behaviour in Mus minutoides but never say never. We are familiar with the Pebble-mound mice (Pseudomys) in Australia but this does not seem to be related to moisture capture. We know very little about the African pygmy mice species so this would be an interesting one to follow up, unfortunately we don’t have time!!!

    • user1775

      Hi Chris and Mathilde, thanks for your comment. Yeah I found the Australian mice in my research but I think you’re right that it’s not to do with water. Any suggestions of people who might be able to help?

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