Gerbils are small rodents but they are not rats! They normally have white bellies and are agouti coloured. They live in the wild in Central Asia, India, the Middle East, and Africa. They roam the savanna, steppe, hot desert and semi-desert areas of these nations. The colour of their coats ranges from a greyish to a reddish brown with black ticking dependant upon their environment, and the belly coat can range from off white to a light cream colour. Their tails are covered in fur, in contrast to those of mice and rats, and often has a black tuf at the endt. They belong to the exact same sub-order as mice and rats, the Muridae, however, even though they are also known as ‘desert rats,’ gerbils are part of a different family — the Gerbillinae that is made of around ninety species.
The type of gerbil normally kept as a pet is the Mongolian Gerbil also referred to as the Clawed Jird. It was first encountered by Europeans in Eastern Mongolia in 1867. In the 1930’s they were successfully bred in Japan and then in 1954 they were brought to the United states and in 1964 a number of pairs were taken to Great Britain.
The Meriones group (officially referred to as Jirds) inhabit the northern most area of the gerbil’s range, which extends from North Africa, Turkey and North-west India to Central Asia.
Gerbil families and habitat
In the wild Mongolian Gerbils live in family units of approximately twenty gerbils. In these groups just one female and one male mate on a regular basis. They dwell in a big burrow which usually stretches around twenty inches below ground and is comprised of several chambers for nesting and food storage.
Gerbil diet and hearing
Their diet is mainly made up of plant seeds, roots and leaves. Despite the fact that they are primarily vegetarian, gerbils may complement their diet with insects. The gerbil burrow is dry but may also become terribly chilly. This is the reason why gerbils have evolved to save moisture by generating minimal amounts of urine and perspiration, and also preserve warmth by having developed a stocky physique, furry tail and modest exterior ears. In comparison their middle and inner ears are actually quite large and have evolved to offer superb detection of really low frequency noises like those produced by the beating of an owl’s wings. Gerbils seldom vocalize and normally communicate by scent. The majority of aural communication usually occurs during periods of danger or sexual contact and is made up of foot drumming.