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Let the collections commence!

Posted by , on 6 April 2012

All is well. The Kazakh family is unbelievable. They have
been catching more than 20 females each night although almost every
one of them died the first two nights. We think it’s because they overheated during the day before they were able to bring them to me. So now they’re bringing the
animals each night after they finish the collection which was
about 1 am the first night and 2 am last night. I am becoming one with
my nocturnal animals. The unfortunate thing (besides my lack of sleep)
is that these guys are much more agressive than the animals in my
colony back home, and especially pissed off and active at night after
being trapped in a small cage. Thank goodness for my gloves with leather
fingertips. They try desperately to take their vengeance on my hand and
instead get a mouthful of leather. Perhaps it still makes them feel
good to think they’re punishing me.

Many of the embryos are too old for my analyses, but the pregnancy
rate is so high this year that I’m still getting a lot of embryos of
the stages I want. 25 litters so far, to be precise. Which is more
than 90 embryos for two night’s work. At this rate I’ll have a
bumper crop in no time and perhaps be finished a bit early. Definitely
in time to switch gears for phase 2 of the biomechanics work when the
grad student working with me arrives from Boston in a couple of weeks.

Not sure what happened this year though. The climate is no different
from when I’ve been here before.The temperatures are tracking the
same. There’s hardly any vegetation yet, and the trees haven’t budded.
But the jerboas have all clearly fed well and are breeding at least
1-2 weeks earlier than before. Maybe there are annual cycles I’m not
aware of. A professor at the Academy of Sciences told me that about
once in 5-7 years there are almost no jerboas. Maybe this is the
opposing peak of that valley.

In any case, I can’t complain. Given the difficulty of this work and
all of the many many factors that are out of my control, I have to say
I am pretty pleased. Fingers crossed this run of good luck continues.

Thumbs up (2 votes)

Categories: Lab Life, Research

3 thoughts on “Let the collections commence!”

    1. I guess by “little vegetation”, I meant little green vegetation is out yet which I’m using as one of the indicators of seasonal timing. But these guys can survive quite well just on last year’s seeds and dried plants that haven’t woken up yet. So I’ve asked them to move around to places that are more true desert with bare sand. The topology around here changes rapidly from farmland to flat scrub brush to more bare dunes, so the animals out in the bare dunes are likely to be the ones who aren’t getting quite as much food. Maybe.

      Good suggestion about looking at the stomach contents. By “well fed”, I mean how full is the whole digestive tract. Since I’m opening them up to get the embryos, that’s what I’ve been comparing between the locations. Also the thickness of the tail is an indicator of health. But in terms of *what* they’re eating, there is a lab here working on intestinal flora, so they’re getting the internal organs after I take the embryos. Hopefully they’ll be able to answer that question for me.

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