In the wild, the Roborovski hamster (phodopus roborovskii) can be found in arid and semi arid areas of Kazakhstan through to Mongolia and parts of China. This area is known as the Mongolian Plateau and Roborovski are well adapted to living there. Also known as the desert hamster, Roborovski lack the dorsal stripe of other dwarf hamsters and prefer to burrow in loose substrate/sand 1.
Their habitat, whilst arid, is subject to large changes in temperature but wild Roborovski have been observed to not hibernate or go into torpor during low temperature conditions. The Mongolian Plateau served as a refuge for this species during times of extreme climate change over the course of thousands of years, which means the Roborovski has evolved as a specialist to survive this particular habitat. 2.
This desert hamster is also found on the Tibetan Plateau in a similar type of environment. 4
The Roborovski has been added to the Kazakhstan government’s regulation of approval of rare and endangered plants and animals index (2006). 3
Specialist features of the roborovski include hairy feet, providing protection from hot sand and insulation when out on cold nights. Longer back legs help the robo power up sand dunes and move sand out of the way when burrowing (by pushing it backwards). Robo’s are sandy brown coloured on top and white underneath, providing camouflage from predators flying above and heat protection from below. They are small, low to the ground and cobby in shape which are all recognised defenses against extreme heat, extreme cold and predation. Roborovski, like other hamsters, have pouches that enable them to forage as much food as they can carry in one night and store this in their burrows.
We know the main predators of nocturnal small rodents on the Mongolian Plateau are owls and foxes. Given the behaviour of Roborovski when startled, and the type of camouflage they use, it’s logical to assume that their main predators are owls. To this end Roborovski have developed the ability to run extremely fast, a trait they seem to hold on to despite captive breeding.
Roborovski eat a similar diet to other hamsters and are omnivorous, eating a mixture of seeds, grasses and insects. More information on the diet of the pet roborovski can be found on ‘Your Pet Roborovski’
**More to follow
1&2. Continental Refugium in the Mongolian Plateau during Quaternary Glacial Oscillations: Phylogeography and Niche Modelling of the Endemic Desert Hamster, Phodopus roborovskii. Xue Lv,Lin Xia,Deyan Ge,Zhixin Wen,Yanhua Qu,Liang Lu,Qisen Yang
3. Seasonal Changes of Steroid Levels in Blood Plasma of three Phodopus Species. N. Yu. Feoktistova, M. V. Kropotkina, and S. V. Naidenko (2010)
4. The desert hamster in phodopus roborovskii from north western Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh, India: an addition to the mammalian fauna of the Indian Subcontinent. V. Ramachandran, M.Joshi, M Ambekar, S Charoo, U Ramakrishnan (2019)