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Animal Database
Degu
Octodon degus -Heidelberg Zoo, Germany-8a
At Heidelberg Zoo, Germany
Information
Common Name Brush-tailed Rat and Common Degu
Range Chilean matorral ecoregion of central Chile.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Rodentia
Family Octodontidae
Genus Octodon
Species Octodon degus
Conservation Status
LCSpecies
Least Concern

The Degu (Octodon degus), is a species of caviomorph rodent that is endemic to Chilean matorral ecoregion of central Chile.

It is sometimes referred to as the brush-tailed rat, and is also called the common degu, to distinguish it from the other members of the genus Octodon. Other members are also called degus, but they are distinguished by additional names. The name "degu" on its own, however, indicates either the genus Octodon or, more usually, Octodon degus. Degus are in the parvorder Caviomorpha of the infraorder Hystricognathi, along with the chinchillas and guinea pigs. The word degu comes from the Mapudungun dewü (mouse, rat).

Description[]

The degu is a small animal with a body length of 25.0 to 31.0 centimetres (9.8–12.2 in) and a weight of 170 to 300 grams (6.0 to 10.6 oz). It has yellow-brown fur above and creamy-yellow below, with yellow around the eyes and a paler band around the neck. It has a long, thin tail with a tufted black tip, dark sparsely-furred ears, and pale grey toes. Its fifth toe is small with a nail, rather than a claw, on the forefeet. Its hindfeet are bristled. Its cheek teeth are shaped like figures-of-eight, hence the degu's genus name "Octodon".

Social Behavior[]

Diet[]

Research Subjects[]

Pets[]

After initial interest into degus as research subjects, degus have become popular as pets, though until very recently they were seldom found in pet shops. Their advantages over traditional small pets are their diurnal habits, bubbly personalities, the haired tail (as compared to rats and mice) and their lifespan: they are reported to live up to 13 years under ideal circumstances (though a poor gene pool/genetic background often reduces a pet degu's lifespan significantly). The average lifespan of a degu in captivity is typically around 6–8 years of age. One disadvantage of the degu as a pet is their predisposition to chewing, due to their continually growing incisor and molar teeth. For this reason degus cannot be housed in plastic-bottomed cages typically found in pet stores. A metal cage with multiple levels made for rats and secured double latches works best. It is important to line the levels with grass mats or a soft fabric so that the degus do not get bumblefoot. Untamed degus, as with most small animals, can be prone to biting, but their intelligence makes them easy to tame. Regular non-predatory handling and food offerings help with this transition. It is important never to try to catch a degu by the tail because it will fall off easily and is painful to the creature. If this occurs it will not grow back. Degus often 'groom' their human owners, by a gentle nibbling action, and readily bond with any person spending time with them. Degus need regular sand baths to keep their coats healthy and free from grease. Chinchilla sand is ideal for this. They should have access to this regularly, preferably two or three times a week, half an hour at a time. Daily sandbathing can make their coats soiled.

Legal Status[]

Some jurisdictions consider degus as a potential invasive species and forbid owning them as a pet. In the United States, they are illegal to own in California, Georgia, and Alaska. In Canada they are illegal to own in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are completely illegal in New Zealand.

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