These small, social rodents are native to the slopes of the Andes, where they form groups of up to ten.

Physical Description

Degus have brown, silky coats on their backs and white fur underneath. They have squat bodies, and their hind limbs are shorter than their fore limbs. They have five clawed toes on their hind feet and four on their fore feet. Their tails are long with a brush-like tip.

Native Habitat

Degu are native to the grasslands of central Chile. They build extensive underground tunnel systems.


If degus detect danger, they will give an alarm call to warn the rest of the colony. They may also beat their tails against the ground in alarm or excitement.

Food/Eating Habits

Degu graze on grasses, foliage and seeds, and store food in their burrows during the winter.

At the Smithsonian's Zoo, the degus eat a low protein pellet, leafy greens and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots.

Sleep Habits

They are diurnal, or active during the day.

Social Structure

Degus are very social animals and live in groups of up to ten individuals. They spend their days grooming each other, playing and ruffling each other's fur. These behaviors help strengthen group bonds. They sleep snuggled close together.

Males build piles of debris, such as wood, rocks and dried dung, at the openings of the burrows. These mounds serve as a symbol of status within the group. Males will sleep by the mound they create.

Reproduction and Development

In the southern part of their range, breeding takes place from July through September. Breeding may take place throughout the year in the rest of their range. Gestation is around 90 days and the average litter size is five young.

Conservation Efforts

They are common throughout their range and their populations are even on the rise because the expansion of humans has provided them with increased nesting areas. While they are often considered to be pests, degus are also becoming popular as pets and are sometimes used in research.

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