Habitat: Endemic to central Chile in South America
Diet: Herbivore. Eats grass, leaves, bark, and seeds.
Size: Small. Length up to 12 inches. Weight up to 12oz.
Classification: Class Mammalia, Order Rodentia, Suborder Hystrichognathi, Parvorder Caviomorpha, Family Octodontidae, Genus Octodon, Species Degus.
Degus are highly social rodents that are often kept as pets. They are endemic to Chile, meaning that they are found in the wild only in this country. Since their diet consists of plant matter, usually high in fiber, degus do not readily digest sugars. Because of this, they may develop diabetes quite easily. Before these animals gained popularity in the pet industry, they were used in research for diabetic treatments and studies.
Degus are very intelligent and are great escape artists. They can use tools and have been found to stack items according to size. Like other rodents, their teeth grow continuously; however, they chew constantly, which grinds down their teeth and keeps them at the right size. Unlike mice and rats, these animals cannot be picked up by the tail: it will fall off and will not grow back. Similar to rabbits, the degus use coprophagy to get as many nutrients from their diet as possible.
Written by Megan Beaver