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The gerbil is a small, burrowing rodent that is native to dry, sandy areas of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Many people keep gerbils as household pets. These desert mammals are nocturnal (most active at night); they spend the day resting in their burrows. Gerbils can hop, using their long tail as a balance. They have a life span of about 4 years in the wild. Gerbils often live together in large colonies.

In 1954, Dr. Victor Schwentker brought nine Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) to the USA for his scientific work; most pet gerbils are descendants of these animals!

Anatomy: Gerbils range in size from 3 to 7 inches (8 to 18 cm) long, plus a long tail that is 3 to 9 inches (8 to 23 cm) long. These tiny rodents weigh up to 7 ounces (200 grams). The coat color ranges from white to gray to light brown (which is good camouflage in their sandy habitat). Gerbils have keen hearing. Like all rodents, the gerbil's front top teeth continue to grow throughout its life. It must gnaw on hard things to keep wearing the teeth down.

Food and Water: Gerbils eat grains, seeds, grasses, fruit, roots, flowers, and small animals like worms and insects. They do not need much water to drink; they get most of the water they need from their food. They often bring food back to their burrow to eat later.

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