History of Octodon degus
If the degu inhabits Chile for a long time, the scientist Juan Ignacio Molina was the first one to describe it in 1782 as Sciurus degus1. From the XIXth century onwards, new designations of Octodontidaes appear before G. R. Waterhouse names it Octodon degus in 1848. Albino degus are discovered in 1967 and other rare coat variations are then observed. In 1927, J. A. Wolffsohn introduces the Octodon degus clivorum as an altitude subspecies. However, it is not acknowledged and makes the Octodon degus considered as a monotypical species.
Only staring from the mid 20th century that the Octodon degus and other different kinds of degus are more widely studied on their geographical distribution (Osgood, 1943) or their anatomy (Mann, 1940)1. To date, the Octodon degus is subject to scientific researches, allowing then a better understanding of its species. The Octodon degus is thus observed for its diabetes sensivity and Alzheimer disease2 but also its complex social behaviour.
Despite being an endemic species from Chile3, the Octodon degus actually inhabits a part of the Andean Cordillera. It can also be found in Argentina and other nearby countries. Other species of degus can be found in Chile. In the wild, they use to share their territories even though to date, no interspecies breeding was found. Though, we can note that the Octodon pacificus is the only one that cannot mingle with its peers, exclusively inhabiting an island. The degus are old inhabitants of Chile, indeed, carbon dated bones have been found in excavation sites. Thus allowing to prove that this rodent was present in Chile 200 years BC4.
Remaining the most commun mammal in central Chile5, because of human actvity, populations of degus tend to deplete6. Moreover, the Octodon pacificus, considered an extinct species in several regions would still be around thanks to a female corpse discovered on Mocha Island. Nevertheless, locals fighting rats and mice which are an invasive species, are using poison to exterminate them. This poison is responsible for the death of the aformentioned female, indicating that degus tend to eat it.
Translation by Matthieu Selles.