Rodents use tools to gather food

September 26, 2008

Our degu as a juvenile

Our degu as a juvenile

We have two adorable Degus (Octodon degus) in our collection.  These intelligent rodents are from Chile, but have recently become more popular in the pet trade.  They have become a wonderful addtion to our educational programs as not many people have heard of them.  As it turns out, they are also my personal favorite (we each have favorites, even though we try not to!)

Degus have also been used in medical research for diabetes, sleep patterns, & most recently, their ability to use tools! Before purchasing any new animal, we do a lot of research to make sure that they will be a good fit for our programs.  With that said, we knew that our new furry friends would be smart, energetic, and try to chew through anything.  We were prepared, but after reading articles on how degus were able to use a rake to gather food, we were impressed! Check it out:

Authored By Frances Zollinger

As a museum naturalist, Frances teaches wildlife classes, presents hands-on wildlife outreach programs, teaches summer camp, and helps care for the live animal collection.

2 responses to “Rodents use tools to gather food”

  1. Jacque says:

    Does your Degus do tricks like dance for its food? That is very interesting to see them in action with the rake. I know several animals use tools such as the chimps and bombas( i think that spelling is right).

  2. Frances says:

    Unfortunately, neither of our degus dance. However, they have become more interested in allowing us to hold them if we give them a sunflower seed-their favorite treat. Also, to clarify, the degu in the video is not one of ours; it was a research degu from Japan.

    Tool use by animals is a very interesting behavior studied by many researchers among many types of species. Chimpanzees and bonobos are highly studied, probably for their behavioral similarities to humans. Most animals use tools for one purpose: Obtaining food! Not only are primates, birds, fish, & other vertebrates capable of using tools, but invertebrates are capable of tool use. The octopus has been found to use rocks as tools to close the opening to their den. Thank you for the questions!

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