Gerbil
Overview
 
A gerbil is a small mammal of the order Rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

ia. Once known simply as "desert rats", the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n, and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n rodents, including sand rats and jird
Meriones (genus)
Meriones is a rodent genus that includes the gerbil most commonly kept as a pet, Meriones unguiculatus. The genus contains most animals referred to as jirds, but members of the genera Sekeetamys, Brachiones, and sometimes Pachyuromys are also known as jirds. The distribution of Meriones ranges...

s, all of which are adapted to arid habitats. Most are primarily diurnal  (though some, including the common household pet, do exhibit crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 behavior), and almost all are omnivorous
Omnivore
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

.

The word "gerbil" is a diminutive form of "jerboa
Jerboa
The jerboa form the bulk of the membership of the family Dipodidae. Jerboas are hopping desert rodents found throughout Asia and Northern Africa. They tend to be found in hot deserts....

", though the jerboas are an unrelated group of rodents occupying a similar ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

.

One Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

n species, Meriones unguiculatus
Meriones unguiculatus
Meriones unguiculatus, the Mongolian Jird or Mongolian Gerbil is a rodent belonging to subfamily Gerbillinae. It is the most widely known species of the Gerbil subfamily, and is the usual gerbil species to be kept as a pet or experimental animal, when it is known as the Domesticated Gerbil...

, also known as the Clawed Jird, is a gentle and hardy animal that has become a popular pet
Pet
A pet is a household animal kept for companionship and a person's enjoyment, as opposed to wild animals or to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic or productive reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful...

.
Encyclopedia
A gerbil is a small mammal of the order Rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

ia. Once known simply as "desert rats", the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n, and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n rodents, including sand rats and jird
Meriones (genus)
Meriones is a rodent genus that includes the gerbil most commonly kept as a pet, Meriones unguiculatus. The genus contains most animals referred to as jirds, but members of the genera Sekeetamys, Brachiones, and sometimes Pachyuromys are also known as jirds. The distribution of Meriones ranges...

s, all of which are adapted to arid habitats. Most are primarily diurnal  (though some, including the common household pet, do exhibit crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 behavior), and almost all are omnivorous
Omnivore
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

.

The word "gerbil" is a diminutive form of "jerboa
Jerboa
The jerboa form the bulk of the membership of the family Dipodidae. Jerboas are hopping desert rodents found throughout Asia and Northern Africa. They tend to be found in hot deserts....

", though the jerboas are an unrelated group of rodents occupying a similar ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

.

One Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

n species, Meriones unguiculatus
Meriones unguiculatus
Meriones unguiculatus, the Mongolian Jird or Mongolian Gerbil is a rodent belonging to subfamily Gerbillinae. It is the most widely known species of the Gerbil subfamily, and is the usual gerbil species to be kept as a pet or experimental animal, when it is known as the Domesticated Gerbil...

, also known as the Clawed Jird, is a gentle and hardy animal that has become a popular pet
Pet
A pet is a household animal kept for companionship and a person's enjoyment, as opposed to wild animals or to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic or productive reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful...

. It was first brought from China to Paris, France in the nineteenth century, and became a popular house pet. It was then brought to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1954 by Dr. Victor Schwentker for use in research.

Gerbils are typically between six and twelve inches (150 to 300 mm) long, including the tail which makes up approximately one half of their total length. One species, the Great Gerbil
Great Gerbil
The Great Gerbil is a large gerbil found throughout much of Central Asia.-Description:The largest of the gerbils, Great Gerbils have a head and body length between 15-20cm . Their skulls are distinctive by having two grooves in each incisor...

, or Rhombomys opimus, originally native to Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, can grow to more than 16 inches (400 mm). The average adult gerbil weighs approximately 2½ ounces.

Behavior

Gerbils are social animals, and live in groups in the wild. They rely on their sense of smell to identify other members of their clan. This is why it is important to use what is commonly referred to as the "split tank method" when introducing gerbils from separate litters. Gerbils are known to attack and often kill those carrying an unfamiliar scent.

Classification

SUBFAMILY GERBILLINAE
  • Tribe Ammodillini
    • Genus Ammodillus
      • Ammodile
        Ammodile
        The Ammodile, Walo or Somali gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Ammodillus.It is found in Ethiopia and Somalia....

        , Ammodillus imbellis
  • Tribe Desmodilliscini
    • Genus Desmodilliscus
      • Pouched Gerbil
        Pouched Gerbil
        The Pouched Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Desmodilliscus and the subtribe Desmodilliscina....

        , Desmodilliscus braueri
    • Genus Pachyuromys
      • Fat-tailed Gerbil
        Fat-tailed Gerbil
        Pachyuromys duprasi is a rodent belonging to subfamily Gerbillinae. It is the only member of the genus Pachyuromys. These rodents are the most docile species of the Gerbil subfamily. Often called the Fat-tailed Gerbil or Duprasi Gerbil. Other common English names: Fat-tailed Jird, Fat-tailed Rat,...

        , Pachyuromys duprasi
  • Tribe Gerbillini
    • Subtribe Gerbillina
      • Genus Dipodillus
        Dipodillus
        Dipodillus is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae.It contains the following species:* Botta's Gerbil * North African Gerbil * Wagner's Gerbil...

        • Botta's Gerbil
          Botta's Gerbil
          Botta's gerbil, Dipodillus bottai is distributed mainly in Sudan and Kenya.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is listed as data deficient...

          , Dipodillus bottai
        • North African Gerbil
          North African Gerbil
          The North African Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, possibly Chad, possibly Mauritania....

          , Dipodillus campestris
        • Wagner's Gerbil
          Wagner's Gerbil
          Dipodillus dasyurus is distribution mainly Nile Delta, Sinai, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula. It commonly referred to as Wagner's dipodil, Rough-tailed dipodil, or Wadi Hof gerbil.-References:...

          , Dipodillus dasyurus
        • Harwood's Gerbil
          Harwood's Gerbil
          Harwood's gerbil, Dipodillus harwoodi, is distributed mainly in Kenya.-References:*Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894-1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press,...

          , Dipodillus harwoodi
        • James's Gerbil
          James's Gerbil
          James's gerbil, Dipodillus jamesi, is distributed mainly in Tunisia.-References:*Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894-1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore...

          , Dipodillus jamesi
        • Lowe's Gerbil, Dipodillus lowei
        • Mackilligin's Gerbil, Dipodillus mackilligini
        • Greater Short-tailed Gerbil, Dipodillus maghrebi
        • Rupicolous Gerbil
          Rupicolous Gerbil
          The Rupicolous Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in Mali.Its natural habitats are dry savanna and rocky areas.-References:* Granjon, L. 2004. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

          , Dipodillus rupicola
        • Lesser Short-tailed Gerbil, Dipodillus simoni
        • Somalian Gerbil, Dipodillus somalicus
        • Khartoum Gerbil
          Khartoum Gerbil
          The Khartoum gerbil Dipodillus stigmonyx, is found mainly in Sudan.-References:*Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894-1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore...

          , Dipodillus stigmonyx
        • Kerkennah Islands Gerbil, Dipodillus zakariai
      • Genus Gerbillus
        Gerbillus
        Gerbillus is a genus that contains most common gerbils. Traditionally the genera Dipodillus and Microdillus have been included in this genus by some authorities.-Species:Genus Gerbillus*Subgenus Hendecapleura...

        • Subgenus Hendecapleura
          • Pleasant Gerbil
            Pleasant Gerbil
            The Pleasant gerbil is a species of gerbil that is found mainly in Libya, Egypt, possibly Mauritania to Tunisia. These are a mere 6 cm in body length with a brown agouti style coat, a white belly and a very long tail.-Pleasant gerbils as pets:Although rare, they are being kept and bred in...

            , Gerbillus amoenus
          • Brockman's Gerbil
            Brockman's Gerbil
            Brockman’s gerbil, Gerbillus brockmani is distributed mainly in Somalia.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is listed as data deficient...

            , Gerbillus brockmani
          • Black-tufted Gerbil
            Black-tufted Gerbil
            The black-tufted gerbil, Gerbillus famulus, is distributed mainly across the southwestern Arabian Peninsula....

            , Gerbillus famulus
          • Algerian Gerbil, Gerbillus garamantis
          • Grobben's Gerbil, Gerbillus grobbeni
          • Pygmy Gerbil
            Pygmy Gerbil
            Gerbillus henleyi is distributed mainly in Algeria to Israel and the Arabian Peninsula. It is known as Henley's gerbil or pygmy dipodil.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern...

            , Gerbillus henleyi
          • Mauritian Gerbil, Gerbillus mauritaniae (sometimes considered a separate genus Monodia)
          • Harrison's Gerbil, Gerbillus mesopotamiae
          • Barfur Gerbil, Gerbillus muriculus
          • Balochistan Gerbil, Gerbillus nanus
          • Large Aden Gerbil
            Large Aden Gerbil
            The Large Aden Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.-References:* Harrison, D. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Gerbillus poecilops
          • Principal Gerbil, Gerbillus principulus
          • Least Gerbil
            Least Gerbil
            The least gerbil, Gerbillus pusillus is distributed mainly in southern Sudan, southwestern Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.-References:...

            , Gerbillus pusillus
          • Sand Gerbil
            Sand Gerbil
            The Sand gerbil, Gerbillus syrticus is distributed mainly in northeastern Libya. There are thought to be less than 250 individuals in existence....

            , Gerbillus syrticus
          • Vivacious Gerbil, Gerbillus vivax
          • Waters's Gerbil
            Waters's Gerbil
            Waters's gerbil, Gerbillus watersi is distributed mainly in Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti.-References:*Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. Pp. 894-1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins...

            , Gerbillus watersi
        • Subgenus Gerbillus
          • Berbera Gerbil, Gerbillus acticola
          • Agag Gerbil
            Agag Gerbil
            The Agag gerbil, Gerbillus agag, is distributed mainly in southern Mauritania to northern Nigeria and Sudan. IUCN lists the junior synonyms Gerbillus cosensi and G. dalloni as critically endangered.-References:...

            , Gerbillus agag
          • Anderson's Gerbil
            Anderson's Gerbil
            Anderson's Gerbil, Gerbillus andersoni is a species of gerbils distributed from Tunisia to Israel. Their habitat and diet are similar to other gerbils. The gestation period is 20-22 days and the average litter size is 4-5. IUCN lists the junior synonym Gerbillus allenbyi as vulnerable....

            , Gerbillus andersoni
          • Swarthy Gerbil
            Swarthy Gerbil
            The Swarthy gerbil, Gerbillus aquilus, is distributed mainly in eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, and western Pakistan....

            , Gerbillus aquilus
          • Burton's Gerbil
            Burton's Gerbil
            Burton's Gerbil, Gerbillus burtoni is distributed mainly in Darfur, Sudan. Less than 250 individuals of this species of gerbil are thought to persist in the wild....

            , Gerbillus burtoni
          • Cheesman's Gerbil
            Cheesman's Gerbil
            Cheesman's gerbil, Gerbilus cheesmani, is distributed mainly in Arabian Peninsula to southwestern Iran. The total length of this gerbil is about 22 cm.Cheesman's gerbil appears similar to the Palid gerbil ....

            , Gerbillus cheesmani
          • Dongola Gerbil, Gerbillus dongolanus
          • Somalia Gerbil
            Somalia Gerbil
            The Somalia gerbil, Gerbillus dunni, is distributed mainly in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is listed as data deficient...

            , Gerbillus dunni
          • Flower's Gerbil
            Flower's Gerbil
            Flower’s Gerbil, Gerbillus floweri is distributed mainly in Egypt, Sinai; south of El Arish. Less than 250 individuals of this species are thought to persist in the wild....

            , Gerbillus floweri
          • Lesser Gerbil, Gerbillus gerbillus
          • Indian Hairy-footed Gerbil, Gerbillus gleadowi
          • Western Gerbil
            Western Gerbil
            The western gerbil, Gerbillus hesperinus, is distributed mainly in northern Morocco.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is vulnerable and the criteria used...

            , Gerbillus hesperinus
          • Hoogstraal's Gerbil, Gerbillus hoogstraali
          • Lataste's Gerbil, Gerbillus latastei
          • Sudan Gerbil
            Sudan Gerbil
            The Sudan gerbil, Gerbillus nancillus is distributed mainly in central Sudan.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is listed as data deficient...

            , Gerbillus nancillus
          • Nigerian Gerbil, Gerbillus nigeriae
          • Occidental Gerbil
            Occidental Gerbil
            The occidental gerbil, Gerbillus occiduus, is distributed mainly southwestern Morocco. Less than 250 individuals of this species are thought to persist in the wild....

            , Gerbillus occiduus
          • Pale Gerbil
            Pale Gerbil
            The pallid gerbil, Gerbillus perpallidus is distributed mainly in northwestern Egypt.-Pallid gerbils as pets:The pallid gerbils, usually shortened to pallid by enthusiasts, is recommended as a good second species for those with experience of keeping Mongolian gerbils....

            , Gerbillus perpallidus
          • Cushioned Gerbil, Gerbillus pulvinatus
          • Greater Egyptian Gerbil
            Greater Egyptian Gerbil
            The large Egyptian gerbil, Gerbillus pyramidum, is distributed mainly throughout northern Africa and Israel.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern...

            , Gerbillus pyramidum
          • Rosalinda Gerbil
            Rosalinda Gerbil
            The Rosalinda gerbil, Gerbillus rosalinda, is distributed mainly central Sudan.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is listed as data deficient...

            , Gerbillus rosalinda
          • Tarabul's Gerbil
            Tarabul's Gerbil
            Tarabul's gerbil, Gerbillus tarabuli is distributed from Senegal and Mauritania to Libya and Chad.-References: Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern...

            , Gerbillus tarabuli
      • Genus Microdillus
        • Somali Pygmy Gerbil
          Somali Pygmy Gerbil
          The Somali Pygmy Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Microdillus.It is found only in Somalia.Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry shrubland....

          , Microdillus peeli
    • Subtribe Rhombomyina
      • Genus Brachiones
        • Przewalski's Gerbil
          Przewalski's Gerbil
          Przewalski's Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Brachiones.It is found only in China.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

          , Brachiones przewalskii
      • Genus Meriones
        Meriones (genus)
        Meriones is a rodent genus that includes the gerbil most commonly kept as a pet, Meriones unguiculatus. The genus contains most animals referred to as jirds, but members of the genera Sekeetamys, Brachiones, and sometimes Pachyuromys are also known as jirds. The distribution of Meriones ranges...

        • Subgenus Meriones
          • Tamarisk Jird
            Tamarisk Jird
            The Tamarisk Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is found in China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones tamariscinus
        • Subgenus Parameriones
          • Persian Jird
            Persian Jird
            The Persian jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae found in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan....

            , Meriones persicus
          • King Jird
            King Jird
            The King Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones rex
        • Subgenus Pallasiomys
          • Arabian Jird
            Arabian Jird
            The Arabian Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.-References:* Tchabovsky, A. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones arimalius
          • Cheng's Jird
            Cheng's Jird
            Cheng's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in China....

            , Meriones chengi
          • Sundevall's Jird
            Sundevall's Jird
            Sundevall's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and possibly Mali....

            , Meriones crassus
          • Dahl's Jird
            Dahl's Jird
            Dahl's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in Armenia and the neighboring Agri province of Turkey.-References:* Tchabovsky, A. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones dahli
          • Moroccan Jird, Meriones grandis
          • Libyan Jird
            Libyan Jird
            The Libyan Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Afghanistan, Algeria, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan....

            , Meriones libycus
          • Midday Jird
            Midday Jird
            The Midday Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.-References:...

            , Meriones meridianus
          • Buxton's Jird
            Buxton's Jird
            Buxton's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is endemic to Israel.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones sacramenti
          • Shaw's Jird
            Shaw's Jird
            Shaw's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.Its natural habitats are arable land, pastureland, and rural gardens.-References:...

            , Meriones shawi
          • Tristram's Jird
            Tristram's Jird
            Tristram's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones tristrami
          • Mongolian Jird (Mongolian Gerbil), Meriones unguiculatus
          • Vinogradov's Jird
            Vinogradov's Jird
            Vinogradov's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.-References:* Baillie, J. 1996. . Downloaded on 19 July 2007....

            , Meriones vinogradovi
          • Zarudny's Jird, Meriones zarudnyi
        • Subgenus Cheliones
          • Indian Desert Jird
            Indian Desert Jird
            The Indian Desert Jird is a species of Jird found mainly in the Thar desert in India. Jirds are closely related to Gerbils.-Distribution:The Indian Desert Jird is found in southeastern Iran and Pakistan to northwestern India...

            , Meriones hurrianae
      • Genus Psammomys
        Psammomys
        Psammomys is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae.It contains the following species:* Fat Sand Rat * Thin Sand Rat -References:...

        • Sand Rat
          Sand Rat
          The sand rat , also known as the fat sand rat, is a terrestrial mammal from the gerbil subfamily that is mostly found in North Africa and the Middle East, ranging from Mauritania to the Arabian Peninsula....

          , Psammomys obesus
        • Thin Sand Rat
          Thin Sand Rat
          The Thin Sand Rat is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia.Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and intermittent saline lakes.-References:...

          , Psammomys vexillaris
      • Genus Rhombomys
        • Great Gerbil
          Great Gerbil
          The Great Gerbil is a large gerbil found throughout much of Central Asia.-Description:The largest of the gerbils, Great Gerbils have a head and body length between 15-20cm . Their skulls are distinctive by having two grooves in each incisor...

          , Rhombomys opimus
    • incertae sedis
      Incertae sedis
      , is a term used to define a taxonomic group where its broader relationships are unknown or undefined. Uncertainty at specific taxonomic levels is attributed by , , and similar terms.-Examples:*The fossil plant Paradinandra suecica could not be assigned to any...

      • Genus Sekeetamys
        • Bushy-tailed Jird
          Bushy-tailed Jird
          The Bushy-tailed Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Sekeetamys.It is found in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.Its natural habitat is rocky areas....

          , Sekeetamys calurus
  • Tribe Gerbillurini
    • Genus Desmodillus
      • Cape Short-eared Gerbil
        Cape Short-Eared Gerbil
        The Cape Short-eared Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Desmodillus.It is found in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa....

        , Desmodillus auricularis
    • Genus Gerbilliscus
      • Cape Gerbil
        Cape Gerbil
        The Cape Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in South Africa.Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and temperate desert.-References:...

        , Gerbilliscus afra
      • Boehm's Gerbil
        Boehm's Gerbil
        Boehm's Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia....

        , Gerbilliscus boehmi
      • Highveld Gerbil
        Highveld Gerbil
        The Highveld Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe....

        , Gerbilliscus brantsii
      • Guinean Gerbil, Gerbilliscus guineae
      • Gorongoza Gerbil
        Gorongoza Gerbil
        The Gorongoza Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.Its natural habitat is moist savanna.-References:* Schlitter, D. 2004. . Downloaded on 20 July 2007....

        , Gerbilliscus inclusus
      • Kemp's Gerbil
        Kemp's Gerbil
        Kemp's Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and possibly...

        , Gerbilliscus kempi
      • Bushveld Gerbil
        Bushveld Gerbil
        The Bushveld Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry...

        , Gerbilliscus leucogaster
      • Black-tailed Gerbil
        Black-tailed Gerbil
        The Black-tailed Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and arable land....

        , Gerbilliscus nigricaudus
      • Phillips's Gerbil, Gerbilliscus phillipsi
      • Fringe-tailed Gerbil
        Fringe-tailed Gerbil
        The Fringe-tailed Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, possibly Cameroon, and possibly Nigeria....

        , Gerbilliscus robustus
      • Savanna Gerbil
        Savanna Gerbil
        The Savanna Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe....

        , Gerbilliscus validus
    • Genus Gerbillurus
      Gerbillurus
      Gerbillurus is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae. It contains the following species:* Hairy-footed Gerbil * Namib Brush-tailed Gerbil * Dune Hairy-footed Gerbil...

      • Hairy-footed Gerbil
        Hairy-Footed Gerbil
        The Hairy-footed Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe....

        , Gerbillurus paeba
      • Namib Brush-tailed Gerbil
        Namib Brush-Tailed Gerbil
        The Namib brush-tailed gerbil or Setzer's hairy-footed gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Angola and Namibia.Its natural habitats are hot deserts and temperate desert.-References:...

        , Gerbillurus setzeri
      • Dune Hairy-footed Gerbil
        Dune Hairy-Footed Gerbil
        The Dune Hairy-footed Gerbil or Namib Dune Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in Namibia.Its natural habitat is temperate desert.-References:...

        , Gerbillurus tytonis
      • Bushy-tailed Hairy-footed Gerbil
        Bushy-Tailed Hairy-Footed Gerbil
        The Bushy-tailed Hairy-footed Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Namibia and South Africa.Its natural habitats are dry savanna, temperate grassland, and hot deserts....

        , Gerbillurus vallinus
    • Genus Tatera
      • Indian Gerbil
        Indian Gerbil
        The Indian Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Syria. It is the only species in the genus Tatera. Members of the genus Gerbilliscus have historically been placed in the genus...

        , Tatera indica
  • Tribe Taterillini
    • Genus Taterillus
      Taterillus
      Taterillus is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae.It contains the following species:* Robbins's Tateril * Congo Gerbil * Emin's Gerbil...

      • Robbins's Tateril
        Robbins's Tateril
        The Robbins's Tateril or Sahel Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found only in Mauritania.Its natural habitats are dry savanna and subtropical or tropical dry shrubland.-References:...

        , Taterillus arenarius
      • Congo Gerbil
        Congo Gerbil
        The Congo Gerbil or Congo Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and possibly Uganda....

        , Taterillus congicus
      • Emin's Gerbil
        Emin's Gerbil
        Emin's Gerbil or Emin's Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda....

        , Taterillus emini
      • Gracile Tateril
        Gracile Tateril
        The Gracile Tateril or Slender Gerbil is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and possibly Cameroon....

        , Taterillus gracilis
      • Harrington's Gerbil
        Harrington's Gerbil
        Harrington's Gerbil or Harrington's Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda....

        , Taterillus harringtoni
      • Lake Chad Gerbil
        Lake Chad Gerbil
        The Lake Chad Gerbil or Lake Chad Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Cameroon and Nigeria.Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and arable land....

        , Taterillus lacustris
      • Petter's Gerbil
        Petter's Gerbil
        Petter's Gerbil or Petter's Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger....

        , Taterillus petteri
      • Senegal Gerbil
        Senegal Gerbil
        The Senegal Gerbil or Senegal Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Niger, Senegal, possibly Gambia, possibly Mali, and possibly Mauritania....

        , Taterillus pygargus
      • Tranieri's Tateril
        Tranieri's Tateril
        Tranieri's Tateril is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Mali and Mauritania.Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and arable land.-References:...

        , Taterillus tranieri

Gerbils as pets

Gerbils were first introduced to the pet industry in 1964. These were the Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 gerbils. Their value as pets was soon appreciated and they are now found in pet shops all over the UK and USA.
Due to the threat they pose to indigenous ecosystems and existing agricultural operations, it is illegal to purchase, import, or keep a gerbil as a pet in the U.S. state of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

.

Housing in captivity

A common misunderstanding when purchasing a home for pet gerbils is that they can live in housing designed for hamsters and mice
MICE
-Fiction:*Mice , alien species in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy*The Mice -Acronyms:* "Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions", facilities terminology for events...

. This is not correct as they require the ability to be able to dig tunnel systems, rather than have them created for them. The commonly plastic structures of hamster and mouse cages is inappropriate for gerbils due to their ability to gnaw through it very quickly. Plastic can cause serious health issues for the animal if ingested, therefore many owners refrain from having any plastic in the tank and rely entirely on wooden toys. There is conflicting information from gerbil societies from throughout the globe with regards to tank sizing. However, a common measurement given appears to be 10 imperial gallons per gerbil.

Mating

Gerbils will mate for several hours, in frequent short bursts followed by short chases where the female allows the male to catch her. Once he catches her, the female will squeak and make flick motions to get the male off her. Males will not attack females except in rare circumstances which may also include them having been separated from their original mates, or widowed. A female may attack a male, but usually he is more than a match for her.

Reasons for popularity

There are several reasons for the popularity of gerbils as household pets. The animals are typically non-aggressive, and they rarely bite unprovoked or without stress. They are small and easy to handle, since they are sociable creatures that enjoy the company of humans and other gerbils. Gerbils also have adapted their kidneys to produce a minimum of waste to conserve body fluids which makes them very clean with little odor.

Teeth problems

Misalignment of incisors due to injury or malnutrition may result in overgrowth, which can cause injury to the roof of the mouth. Symptoms include a dropped or loss of appetite, drooling, weight loss, or foul breath. The teeth must be clipped by a veterinarian regularly for as long as required.

Trauma

Common injuries are caused by gerbils being dropped or falling, usually while inside of a "run-about ball", which can cause broken limbs or a fractured spine (for which there is no cure).

Neglect

A common problem for all small rodents is neglect, which can cause the gerbils to not receive adequate food and water, causing serious health concerns, including dehydration, starvation, stomach ulcers, eating of bedding material, and cannibalism.

Epilepsy

Between 20 percent and 50 percent of all pet gerbils have the seizure disorder epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

. The seizures are thought to be caused by fright, handling, or a new environment. The attacks can be mild to severe but do not typically appear to have any long-term effects, except for rare cases where death results from very severe seizures. Another way to avoid a gerbil having a seizure is to refrain from blowing in the animals face (often used to "train" the pet not to bite), this is used in a lab environment to induce seizures for medical research.

Tumors

Tumor
Tumor
A tumor or tumour is commonly used as a synonym for a neoplasm that appears enlarged in size. Tumor is not synonymous with cancer...

s, both benign and malignant, are fairly common in pet gerbils, and are most common in females over the age of 2. Usually, the tumors involve the ovaries, causing an extended abdomen, or the skin, with tumors most often developing around the ears, feet, mid-abdomen, and base of the tail, appearing as a lump or abscess. The scent gland (positioned on the abdomen) should be checked regularly, a veterinarian can operate on the lump where possible.

Tail sloughing

Gerbils can lose their tails due to improper handling, being attacked by another animal, or getting their tail stuck. The first sign is a loss of fur from the tip of the tail, then, the skinless tail dies off and sloughs, with the stump usually healing without complications.

Tyzzer's disease

The most common infectious disease in gerbils is Tyzzer's disease
Tyzzer's Disease
Tyzzer's disease is a contagious bacterial disease in rats, gerbils, raccoons and horses. It is caused by Clostridium piliforme, formerly known as Bacillus piliformis, a spore-forming bacterium....

, which is often caused by either stress or bacteria, and produces symptoms such as ruffled fur, lethargy, hunched posture, poor appetite, diarrhoea, and often death. It quickly spreads between gerbils in close contact.

Deafness and inner ear problems

A problem with the inner ear can be spotted by a gerbil leaning to one side quite obviously. The fluids in the ears affect balance. However, this does not appear to affect the gerbils too much, which have an aptitude of just getting on with things, and getting used to their conditions. Gerbils with "extreme white spotting" colouring are susceptible to deafness, this is thought to be due to the lack of pigmentation in and around the ear.

Captive-bred gerbils

There are many color varieties of gerbil available in pet shops today, generally the result of years of selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

.

There are over 20 different coat colors in the Mongolian gerbil
Meriones unguiculatus
Meriones unguiculatus, the Mongolian Jird or Mongolian Gerbil is a rodent belonging to subfamily Gerbillinae. It is the most widely known species of the Gerbil subfamily, and is the usual gerbil species to be kept as a pet or experimental animal, when it is known as the Domesticated Gerbil...

, which has been captive-bred the longest.

Another species of gerbil has also been recently introduced to the pet industry: the Fat-tailed Gerbil
Fat-tailed Gerbil
Pachyuromys duprasi is a rodent belonging to subfamily Gerbillinae. It is the only member of the genus Pachyuromys. These rodents are the most docile species of the Gerbil subfamily. Often called the Fat-tailed Gerbil or Duprasi Gerbil. Other common English names: Fat-tailed Jird, Fat-tailed Rat,...

, or duprasi. They’re smaller than the common Mongolian gerbils and have long soft coats and a short, fat tail, appearing more like a hamster
Hamster
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera....

. There is a variation on the normal duprasi coat which is more gray in color, which may be a mutation, or it may be the result of hybrids between the Egyptian and Algerian subspecies of duprasi.

White spotting has been reported in not only the Mongolian Gerbil, but also the Pallid Gerbil and possibly Sundervall's Jird.

A long-haired mutation, a grey agouti or chinchilla mutation, white spotting, and possibly a dilute mutation have also appeared in Shaw's Jird
Shaw's Jird
Shaw's Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.It is found in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.Its natural habitats are arable land, pastureland, and rural gardens.-References:...

s, and white spotting and a dilute mutation have shown up in Bushy-tailed Jird
Bushy-tailed Jird
The Bushy-tailed Jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is the only species in the genus Sekeetamys.It is found in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.Its natural habitat is rocky areas....

s.

Resources

  • McKenna, M. C. and S. K. Bell. 1997. Classification of Mammals above the Species Level. Columbia University Press, New York.
  • Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 1993. Family Muridae. Pp. 501–755 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
  • Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2. Johns Hopkins University Press, London.
  • Pavlinov, I. Ya., Yu. A. Dubrovskiy, O. L. Rossolimo, E. G. Potapova. 1990. Gerbils of the world. Nauka, Moscow.
  • http://www.research.usf.edu/cm/CMDC/C111_Normative_Biology_Diseases_Gerbils_7_03.pdf

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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