Degu Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Degu

Scientific Name:

Octodon degus

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Habitat:

Matorral shrubland

Country:

Chile

Shelter:

Burrows

Life Span:

6-8 years

Size:

12 inches

Cool Facts:

The genus name Octodon is derived from the fact that degu molars are shaped like a figure-eight.   Degus belong to a group of rodents known as hystriocgnaths, which are distinguished by having their primary jaw musculature pass through the small opening in the skull in front of the eyes.   Degus are able to see certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light that are invisible to humans.   Degus sometimes shed their tails when grabbed by predators, but unlike in lizards this is not a voluntary behavior. Rather than severing the tail, the skin and tufted tip is easily ripped off. The tail does not regenerate degus will often chew off degloved portions off to prevent the risk of infection and further injury.

Details:

Degus are small rodents related to chinchillas and guinea pigs. They live in social groups and work together to construct burrows. Their parental care is different from most other rodents, as females will altruistically nurse one another's young and the males are actually involved in rearing the young. A first glance they appear similar to a rat or mouse, but unlike murine rodents degus have furred tails ending in a tufted tip. Unlike many other rodents, degus are diurnal and have well developed vision. Their diet consists of grasses and shrubs, although they are also known to consume their own feces in an act known as coprophagy. This helps the animal to recycle essential nutrients and maintain the health of the digestive system. Degus are unable to process sugar.  

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Rodentia Family: Octodontidae Genus: Octodon Species: O. degus

Conservation & Helping:

Degus are not endangered or at risk of extinction. They were once used as research animals for studying diabetes. In some states, it is legal to keep degus are pets.

For Teachers and Educators

Degu-Fact-Sheet-1.pdf

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