(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The common degu, scientific name Octodon degus, or, traditionally, the degu, is a small hystricomorpha rodent endemic to the Chilean matorral ecoregion of central Chile.

Common Degu Profile

The name degu by itself signifies both the complete genus Octodon or, more generally, simply the common degu. Common degus belong to the parvorder Caviomorpha of the infraorder Hystricognathi, together with the chinchilla and guinea pig.

The phrase degu comes from the indigenous language of Chile, Mapudungun, and the phrase dewü, which means ‘mouse’ or ‘rat’.

The animal could also be stored as a pocket pet, although there are prohibitions on their possession in some territories. As a pet, the animal is bigger than a golden hamster however smaller than an elaborate rat.

Octodon degus inhabit a Mediterranean-type semi-arid shrubland ecosystem referred to as “matorral”, which is discovered on the western slopes of the Andes between 28 and 35 degrees south latitude.

Further north the local weather turns into too arid to help this plant community, and additional south it’s too moist. Degus look restricted to elevations under 1200 meters, each by the distribution of their habitat and by their intolerance of low oxygen partial stress.

Degus are properly in a position to inhabit lands influenced by cattle grazing and are agricultural pests in some areas.

Before conception can happen, the male degu should make investments appreciable energy within the protection of his territory and harem from different males. The feminine subsequently expends appreciable energy in gestation and lactation.

Being pregnant is comparatively long for a rodent, and the younger are born properly developed. After beginning, each parent shield and provisions the pups. Degus nest communally and teams of associated females nurse each other’s younger.

In the laboratory, the feminine stays near the pups two weeks after beginning, and males have been noticed to huddle with the younger throughout this era without cases of infanticide.

In the wild, male degus might spend as a lot of time feeding and huddling with the younger as females do. Pups start to eat stable meals at about two weeks of age and enterprise out of the burrow at three weeks.

Upon weaning at 4 to 6 weeks, the pups are in a position to reside independently of the parents and type same-sex social teams till their first breeding season.

Geographic Range

Common degu is usually thought-about endemic to west-central Chile, the place it inhabits the decrease slopes of the Andes. Although some have argued that its range might prolong north into Peru, this isn’t properly supported.

It is frequent within the worldwide pet commerce, nonetheless, and is usually utilized in laboratory research exterior of its native range.


Common Degu Description

The common degu is a small animal with a body size of 25.zero to 31.zero cm (9.8–12.2 in) and a weight of 170 to 400 g (6.0 to 14.1 oz).

It has yellow-brown fur above and creamy-yellow under, with yellow across the eyes and a paler band across the neck. It has a long, skinny tail with tufted, blacktip, darkish sparsely furred ears, and pale gray toes.

Its fifth toe is small with a nail, quiet than a claw, on the forefeet. Its hind feet bristle. Its cheek teeth are formed like figures-of-eight, therefore the degu’s genus name Octodon.

Octodon degus superficially resemble a gerbil, however is far bigger. Degus sometimes weigh between 170 and 300 g, and measure between 325 and 440 mm in size, together with the tail.

The fur is yellow-brown on the back and head, and the underparts and feet are cream-colored. There is a pale band across the eye and, in some people, the neck. The tail is reasonably long and conspicuously tufted.

The ears are giant and darkly pigmented. The fifth digit is diminished, and on the forefeet, it has a nail as a substitute for a claw. The cheek teeth are hypsodont and their biting surfaces resemble a determine of eight.

Sexes are troublesome to differentiate, however, males are typically about 10% bigger than females. Pups are born furred and in a position to see and start exploring inside hours of beginning.

Octodon degus might be distinguished from the 2 different members of the genus Octodon by slight variations in dental morphology. It can be smaller than its kinfolk and its tail is alleged to be more noticeably tufted.

Common Degu Vision

Unlike other octodontids, common degus are diurnal (lively through the day), and so they have good vision. Their retinas embody rod cells and two varieties of cone cells, equivalent to peak sensitivity within the green and ultraviolet areas of the spectrum.

Behavioral experiments have proven that degus are in a position to discriminate ultraviolet light from the wavelengths seen to people; it’s seemingly that this ultraviolet sensitivity has a social operate, since each their ventral (abdomen) fur and their urine are extremely UV reflective.


Common degus exhibit a big selection of communication strategies. They have an elaborate vocal repertoire comprising as much as 15 completely different sounds, and the younger need to have the ability to hear their mom’s calls if the emotional techniques of their brains are to develop correctly.

They use their urine to scent marks, and experiments have proven that they react to 1 one other’s marks, though in males the hormone testosterone might suppress their sense of odor considerably.


In laboratory circumstances, degus sometimes reside for 5 to eight years.

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Common Degu Behavior

Degus are social and have a tendency to reside in teams of 1 to 2 males and two to 5 associated females. Females take part in rearing on one other’s younger. Groups keep territories all through a lot of the year.

Degus are semi-fossorial, digging intensive communal burrow techniques. These burrows are sometimes shared by Bennett’s chinchilla rat (Abrocoma bennettii).

Degus feed completely above ground, nonetheless, and have been noticed climbing into the low branches of shrubs whereas foraging. Dustbathing is a vital social behavior amongst degus.

Groups repeatedly mark favorite wallows with urine and anal gland secretions. This might assist the group determine one another by scent in addition to delineating territorial boundaries. Degus are primarily diurnal and are most lively through the morning and night.

Common Degu Social Behavior

Common degus are extremely social. They reside in burrows, and, by digging communally, they can assemble bigger and more elaborate burrows than they might on their very own.

Degus digging collectively coordinate their activities, forming digging chains. Females residing in the identical group have been proven to spontaneously nest communally; they nurse each other’s younger.

They spend a considerable amount of time on the floor, the place they forage for meals. When foraging, their capability to detect predators is elevated in bigger teams, and every animal must spend much less time in vigilance.


Common Degu Food Behavior

Degus are generalist herbivores. They feed on the leaves, bark, and seeds of shrubs and forbs. Among their favorite meals are the bark of Cestrum palqui and Mimosa cavenia, leaves and bark of Proustia cuneifolia, Atriplex repunda, and Acacia caven, annuals equivalent to Erodium cicutarum when in season, green grasses, and thistle seeds.

Degus select meal gadgets that cut back fiber and improve nitrogen and moisture within the diet, and thus want younger leaves and keep away from woodier shrubs.

Degus depend on microbial fermentation of their enlarged cecum (they’re “hindgut fermenters”) to digest their meals. They reingest a big proportion of their feces, often through the night.

This permits them to maximize their digestion. Degus retailer meals within the winter, and it has been reported that they often eat meat in old age.

Common Degu Diet

Common degus are strictly herbivorous, within the wild feeding on grasses and looking at the leaves of shrubs, although they will even take seeds.

Throughout a lot of the year, forage is dried and so common degus are specifically tailored to a really high fiber consumption, and this varies between-meal varieties and environmental circumstances.

Like another herbivore equivalent to rabbits, they carry out coprophagy (faecal reingestion) in order to extract more vitamins from their diet. This additionally serves to take care of wholesome intestine operate throughout occasions when meals are scarce.

Although they’re lively by day, in high summertime they don’t go away their burrows in the course of the day and as a substitute emerge to forage within the mornings and evenings.

Perhaps probably the most outstanding function of common degu physiology is their intolerance of dietary sugar.

Common degus have been discovered to have a divergent insulin construction (one of many hormones that regulate blood glucose level) and so are extremely vulnerable to creating diabetes mellitus when fed commonly on a diet containing free sugars.

This is considered as a result of evolutionary stress arising from the shortage of availability of free sugars within the degu’s natural surroundings.

Because of this, the elements of non-degu-specific exhausting feed formulations given to captive common degus ought to be checked for sugar-laden elements, equivalent to molasses, honey, and glucose syrup.

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Common Degu as pet

After preliminary curiosity into common degus as analysis topics, they’ve developed into popular as pets, although till lately they have been seldom present in pet outlets.

Their benefits over conventional small pets are their diurnal habits, bubbly personalities, the haired tail (as in comparison with rats and mice), and their lifespan:

they’re reported to reside as much as 13 years underneath preferred circumstances (although a poor gene pool or genetic background usually reduces a pet degu’s lifespan considerably).

The average lifespan of a typical degu in captivity is often around six to eight years of age.


Common Degu Predation

Common Degu is subject to predation by bigger mammals equivalent to culpeo foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus), and from the air by raptors equivalent to barn owls (Tyto alba), short-eared owls (Asio flammeus), and black-chested buzzard eagles (Geranoaetus melanoleucus).

Degus use vigilance and cover to keep away from predators. Their pelage can be counter-shaded and matches the soil color, which reduces visibility to predators. Degus reside socially and use alarm calls to warn others of hazards. When a predator is noticed, they take cover in shrubby areas and will retreat to the communal burrow.

Common Degu Breeding

Common degus are seasonal breeders; the breeding season for wild degus begins within the Chilean autumn when day and night are roughly equal, with pups born in early to mid-spring.

Female degus are pregnant for roughly ninety days, having a relatively long gestation interval in comparison with different non-caviomorph rodents.

Female pregnant weight varies over the course of gestation and in accordance with litter size; litters comprise an average of six pups, however, size can range from one or two as much as twelve younger.

During the annual breeding season, male-male aggression briefly will increase. Males exclude different males from their burrow and monopolize the females (often 2 to 4) who reside there.

Dustbathing and urine marking could also be used within the protection of territory by each sex, however, these behaviors significantly improve within the male through the breeding season.

Courting males usually have interaction in mutual grooming with females, and ceaselessly carry out a courtship ritual which entails wagging of the tail and trembling of the body.

The male then raises a hind leg and sprays urine onto the feminine. This might serve to familiarize her together with his scent and maybe make her more receptive to his advances sooner or later. Receptive females might typically urinate males in a similar way. Related feminine degus might nurse one another’s younger.

Common degu pups are born comparatively precocial, absolutely furred, and with eyes open, and their auditory and visible techniques are useful at birth. Unlike most different rodents, male common degus additionally participate in defending and elevating their pups till they’re old sufficient to go away from the family.

In the wild degus are likely to breed as soon as per year. The breeding season often begins in late May (autumn in Chile), and the younger is conceived in late winter to early spring (September to October).

In most years, degus might produce second litters. It has been urged that degus could also be induced ovulators, however, this has not been established for sure.

There can be some proof that male reproductive organs could also be delicate to modifications in photoperiod.

The gestation interval is 90 days, and litter size is often 4-6 pups. The younger are precocial. They are born with fur and teeth; their eyes are open and they can transfer in regards to the nest on their very own.

Pups are weaned at four to five weeks and develop into sexually mature between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Degus don’t attain adult size till about 6 months of age, nonetheless, and so they usually reside in same-sex social teams till they’re about 9 months old and their first breeding season happens.

It has been reported that pups raised in isolation within the laboratory experience extreme neural and behavioral abnormalities.


Octodon degus impact the plant community in its habitat by selective looking. Degus behaviorally cut back the fiber content of their diet, preferentially consuming shrubs equivalent to Adesmia bedwellii, Baccharis paniculata, and Chenopodium petioare, which are much less fibrous and fewer thorny than others.

These species have been proven to extend their foliage space upon exclusion of degus. As degus are quite common, they’re themselves a necessary meal source for his or her predators.


Common Degu is taken into account as the most typical mammal in its range and isn’t thought-about threatened or endangered.

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