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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Fat-tailed Gerbil, Pachyuromys duprasi

The fat-tailed gerbil (Pachyuromys duprasi) is also known as the duprasi gerbil, fat-tailed rat, fat-tailed jird, beer mat gerbil, and has many other non-English names. It is native to the northern Sahara, including Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. It prefers habitats within rocky deserts and areas with little vegetation. Wild individuals will dig burrows within firm, sandy soil at a depth of around 3.2 feet.

The fat-tailed gerbil can reach an average of four inches in length, making it a medium sized gerbil. It weighs an average of 1.4 ounces. Its soft, thick fur is yellow in color around the head and back, while the undercoat is dark in color. It has a pointed face, with black eyes and short legs. The tail is nearly hairless and light in color, and is used for storing water and fat. This characteristic tail appears to be fat and thick in healthy individuals.

Individuals in Japan appear to be grayer in color, but not all experts agree that it is simply a color mutation of the fat-tailed gerbil. It is thought that these gerbils may be closer to the subspecies Pachyuromys duprasi natronensis. The grey color also appears in Algerian subspecies, although there is no definitive evidence that suggests these variants are subspecies.

The fat-tailed gerbil is available for purchase in some areas, including Germany, the UK, Denmark, and France. The best way to house a fat-tailed gerbil is in a large aquarium or terrarium, with at least one other gerbil to keep it company. Wood shavings are vital to this species, as they enjoy burrowing, but pine and redwood shavings are not recommended.  Sand baths should be given regularly to keep the gerbil’s coat clean.

Captive fat-tailed gerbils are susceptible to ailments, and sick gerbils appear to be lethargic. These ailments include bite wounds, colds, and negative reactions to food, bedding, or temperature. It is best to prevent ailments, as most veterinarians do not know how to cure this species. The average lifespan of this gerbil in captivity is between five and eight years, although wild individuals do not live this long.

Wild fat-tailed gerbils tend to be active around dusk, while captive gerbils prefer to be active during the day. They are social animals that often live in colonies, but they are capable of living alone. Although they spend much of their time sleeping, almost reaching a state of hibernation, they do enjoy being active, rolling in dirt, grooming, and playing. As is typical to rodents, the fat-tailed gerbil bears a scent gland on the belly, and males will mark their territory using this gland. Fighting gerbils will emit shrieks and bite each other’s tails.

Often times, breeding between fat-tailed gerbils can be confused with fighting. Both males and females will stand on their hind legs, wrestle, and make squeaking noises. Although this process seems aggressive, there are rarely injuries to either party.  If the female does not accept the male’s attempts to mate, she will kick bedding at him with her hind feet.

Female fat-tailed gerbils have a pregnancy that can last up to nineteen days. After making a nest in the burrow, or aquarium for captive gerbils, the female with give birth to a litter of up to six young. While pregnant and nursing, females can be very aggressive. If the male is not kept separate from the mother, she may even kill him. Young are weaned at approximately three to four weeks of age. The fat-tailed gerbil has a large range, and it has been given a conservation status of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Image Caption: A male and female fat-tailed gerbil (Pachyuromys duprasi). Credit: P.H.J. (Peter) Maas/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 2.5)

Fat-tailed Gerbil Pachyuromys duprasi