Degu

Octodon degus

TAXONOMY

Octodon degus (Molina, 1782), Santiago, Santiago Province, Chile.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

Spanish: Chozchoris, rata de las cercas, bori.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 9.8-12.2 in (250-310 mm); tail 2.9-5.1 in (75-130 mm); 6.0-10.5 oz (170-300 g). Compact body and large head. Dorsal color brown and ventral side light yellow, with black tufted tail. Digits with claws, with little digit reduction. Hind feet with bristles protruding beyond claws.

DISTRIBUTION

Western slope of Andes in Chile between Vallenar and Curico. HABITAT

Usually restricted to elevations at 3,937 ft (1,200 m) and below in shrub and savanna habitats ranging from subtropical to semiarid. Burrows placed at the base of bushes and rocks and prefers microhabitats that are thermally less stressful.

BEHAVIOR

Diurnal species active in mornings and afternoons. Constructs multi-chambered and colonial burrow systems housing several adults and young. Highly social with allogrooming among males and females, group huddling, and complex vocalizations consisting of warning alarms and other calls.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Herbivorous diet consisting of forbs, grasses, leaves, and bark of shrubs. Animals forage aboveground and cache food within the burrow system. Individuals capable of climbing to forage.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Generally breeds twice per year, but demonstrates variation relative to the number and timing of litters. Sexual maturity of females reached in six months, gestation is 90 days, and average litter size is five. Young are precocial, and females experience postpartum estrus.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Common throughout its range in Chile; not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Potential animal model for studying human diseases such as cataracts and diabetes mellitus. Known to harbor some diseases threatening to humans. Agricultural pest in some areas. ♦

Common name / Scientific name

Physical characteristics

Habitat and behavior

Distribution

Diet

Conservation status

Sage's rock rat Aconaemys sagei

Brown fur with a bicolored tail. Head and body length 5.5-7.3 in (14-18.7 cm), tail length 2.1-3.1 in (5.5-8 cm), weight 2.9-3.8 oz (83-110 g).

High Andes and coastal mountains. Fossorial. Burrow systems are complex and shallow.

Southern Argentina.

Likely herbivorous.

Not listed by IUCN

Bridges's degu Octodon bridgesi

Upperparts grayish to brownish, sometimes with an orange cast. Underparts creamy yellow. Tail tip has a black brush. Head and body length 4.9-7.7 in (12.519.5 cm), tail length 4.1-6.5 in (10.516.5 cm). Larger than O. degus, whose weight is 5.9-10.6 oz (170-300 g).

Coastal mountains. Fossorial with a complex burrow system.

Andes of northern and central Chile.

Likely herbivorous.

Not listed by IUCN

Moon-toothed degu Octodon lunatus

Upperparts grayish to brownish, sometimes with an orange cast. Underparts creamy yellow. Tail tip has a black brush. Head and body length 4.9-7.7 in (12.519.5 cm), tail length 4.1-16.5 in (10.516.5 cm). Larger than O. degus, whose weight is 5.9-10.6 oz (170-300 g).

Coastal mountains. Fossorial with a complex burrow system.

Andes of central Chile.

Likely herbivorous.

Not listed by IUCN

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