DEGU – Octodon degus

DEGU

Degu facts: Degus, also called trumpet-tailed rats, are similar in body size and appearance to gerbils, except for the fact that their faces share more of a resemblance with squirrels. They have chubby, round bodies, large heads and short necks. The head and body length of degus are from 9.8 to 12.2 inches (25 to 31 centimeters, with a tail length of 2.9 to 5.1 inches (7.5 to 13.0 centimeters. They weigh 6 to 10.5 ounces (170 to 300 grams).

They have long whiskers and relatively long tails that have very little hair, except for a tuft of fur at the tip. The degus’ rear legs are slightly shorter than their front legs. They have four clawed toes on their front paws and five on their back paws. Degus have yellow or brown fur mixed with some black on their upper bodies, and white fur on their underside. Their teeth are bright orange.

Geographic range: In Chile, from the coastal areas of the west slopes of the Andes Mountains to about 9,000 feet (2,700 meters).

Degu habitat: Degus live in the brush, shrubs, and grassy plains of grasslands and deciduous forests.

What does degu eat: Degus are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. They eat mainly during the early morning and early evening. Their diet consists mainly of grass, leaves, herbs, bark, and seeds.

Behavior and reproduction: Degus are extremely social and live in groups of five to ten adults and their young. They groom each other, lay bunched together when sleeping, and the females nurse each other’s babies. A degu group builds burrows consisting of many branched tunnels and multiple entrances. When digging a burrow, the adults form a chain that speeds up the activity.

Degus are diurnal. In the wild, they live about one to three years. In captivity, their average lifespan is five to nine years, with some reportedly living up to thirteen years.

Degus usually breed twice a year. Females are sexually mature, able to bear offspring, at six months. Litters usually consist of four to nine babies.

Degus and people: Degus are used for laboratory research. They are also sold as pets in the United States. In the wild, degus are often killed by farmers who consider them to be agricultural pests, blaming them for destroying grain fields, orchards, and vineyards.

Conservation status: Degus are not listed as threatened by the IUCN.