Octodontidae – Octodontids

Degus, rock rats, and viscacha rats -small, social, and highly vocal rodents found in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina

Known commonly as degus, they represent a fascinating family of rodents primarily found in South America, where they have adapted to a variety of habitats ranging from arid deserts to scrublands and grasslands. Renowned for their exceptional digging abilities, degus spend a significant portion of their lives underground, excavating elaborate burrow systems for shelter, nesting, and foraging. These burrows provide refuge from predators and serve as communal living spaces for degu colonies, showcasing their highly social behavior and cooperative instincts.

Despite their subterranean lifestyle, degus are also popular as pets due to their friendly demeanor and engaging personalities. They are known to be affectionate companions and are particularly renowned for their love of napping, often curling up in cozy corners for extended periods of rest. However, in certain agricultural areas, degus are considered pests due to their propensity to forage on crops and cause damage to agricultural fields, highlighting the complex relationship between humans and wildlife in shared habitats.

One of the most distinctive features of Octodontids is their primarily herbivorous diet, consisting mainly of grasses, seeds, and other plant materials. This specialized feeding behavior is reflected in their long, silky fur, which provides insulation and camouflage in their natural habitats. Their fur typically exhibits shades of brown, with lighter colors on the underside, aiding in thermoregulation and concealment from predators.

Social behavior is prevalent among degus, with most species living in colonies and exhibiting complex social structures. Within these colonies, individuals engage in cooperative behaviors such as communal grooming, resource sharing, and cooperative breeding, highlighting the importance of social cohesion for survival in their often challenging environments.