Posts tagged rodents

Long-tailed Chinchilla - Chinchilla lanigera

Chinchillas (“Little Chincha” - named after the Chincha people native to their habitat) are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) rodents found in the mountainous regions of Chile, in South America. They live in cool, rocky areas, and get by with very little water. In fact, the adaptation to the cold, dry climate means that their thick, soft coats are very ill-equipped to deal with water. Chinchillas clean themselves by "bathing" in volcanic dust.

There are two species of chinchilla - the Long-Tailed (Chinchilla lanigera) and Short-Tailed (Chinchilla chinchilla), both of which are critically endangered in the wild. The largest wild chinchilla population lives around Las Chinchillas National Reserve, in central Chile.

Despite being critically endangered in the wild, domestic pet chinchillas (believed to have descended from the long-tailed chinchilla) are, for the first time, more common than “fur farm” chinchillas (their soft coats are coveted for fur jackets, despite their small size), at least in the United States and Europe.

These creatures require a fair amount of specialized care to keep their coats and teeth healthy, but are not considered difficult keepers, assuming the owner is willing to deal with very little daytime activity and will provide ample exercise and dust-bath time. Unlike many pet rodents, they do not easily adjust their sleep cycles, and will likely remain crepuscular for their entire lives - which, also unlike many pet rodents, can be between 12 to 20 years, barring infection or poor genetics.

Transactions of the Scientific Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1835.

Oh, thank you very much~ I knew they were bred competitively (and still are) and they are also still used in some places as food. Working in a pet store, we have to be very careful to who we sell guinea pigs to because some people still consider them a "delicacy." As for chinchillas, because there were only two original imports, many colors/types cannot be bred with a chinchilla of the same color/type, and when they do, "sudden infant death syndrome" (lethal factor) is most likely to occur. — Asked by kaleidoclypse

Well, I hope being careful with who you sell guinea pigs to doesn’t lead to any blatant discrimination. My best friend in elementary school lived next door to a Quechuan family whose son bred competition Peruvians (or silkies? I’m not sure; they were the long-haired ones that even had hair over their faces and looked like silly little mops) that won shows all over the Midwest US and were the sweetest animals ever. Traditionally, they were people who would have eaten cavies (and I know the parents did when they still lived in Bolivia), and they definitely looked Andea.

Though…yeah, if someone’s asking about the meat texture or best way to cook one, that’s not someone to sell to. :P

That’s really interesting about chinchillas. Small gene pools tend to do that, but I’ve never heard of problems in, say, gerbil breeding. I’m not sure if it’s just that I never heard of it, or if the initial family never really had any genetic problems.

Very cool stuff to know, thanks for sharing!

More fish? Or do you have anything on small animals? Chinchillas, guinea pigs, and other currently domesticated rodents? I know the essential history of the chinchilla being brought to the United States but aside from that, I'm at a loss. Also, I feel like you might possibly enjoy the books "300 Frogs: A Visual Reference to Frogs and Toads from Around the World" and "Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body." Both are a very nice read if you haven't read either already.~ — Asked by kaleidoclypse

I’ve read Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body, but I haven’t seen 300 Frogs before, so thanks for the suggestion!

I love the German word for Guinea Pigs - Meerschweinchen. It means “sea piglet”, and the High German word “merswin”, which was the same word that was used for dolphins.

I don’t know a whole lot about their domestication, only that they were some of the first competitively bred/shown animals in Europe. They were raised domestically in the Andes over 3000 years BCE, but weren’t really “pets”, of course. The Europeans realized their utility as easily-raised fresh meat sources (mostly used in Hispanola and the surrounding islands, and on ship voyages), but once they got to continental Europe, ladies and children were keen on keeping them as pets, since they were generally pretty tame and docile animals. Not long after, the upper-class men got into the competitive breeding of the Guinea Pig, and the development of all the varieties of guinea pig pets we have today progressed from there.

Hystrix crassispinis (the thick-spined porcupine) and spine structure
The thick-spined porcupine only lives around Malaysia and Indonesia, but is still ubiquitous in it’s relatively small habitat. Well, it’s ubiquitous, at least. Most of its habitat is intact, but these spiny rodents have proven that they’re likely going to exist even if it’s all destroyed.
In areas where people have encroached, they’ve adapted to city life like a raccoon in Chicago. They can scavenge, eat tree bark, and forage like a pro. These guys are survivors. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many of the other species of Malaysia and Indonesia that are losing habitat and being poached at an alarming rate.
Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1876.

Hystrix crassispinis (the thick-spined porcupine) and spine structure

The thick-spined porcupine only lives around Malaysia and Indonesia, but is still ubiquitous in it’s relatively small habitat. Well, it’s ubiquitous, at least. Most of its habitat is intact, but these spiny rodents have proven that they’re likely going to exist even if it’s all destroyed.

In areas where people have encroached, they’ve adapted to city life like a raccoon in Chicago. They can scavenge, eat tree bark, and forage like a pro. These guys are survivors. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many of the other species of Malaysia and Indonesia that are losing habitat and being poached at an alarming rate.

Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1876.