The Charming Dipodil ~ Gerbillus amoenus
- Natural habitat
- Behaviour & maintenance in captivity
Coat: Agouti ticked black, undercoat dark slate
Tail: Furred agouti, black ticking, underside white, last third tail dark slate/black with tuft
Ears: Pigmented same colour as undercoat, white flashes above the eye
Feet: Upper foot white, underside unpigmented, naked soles, toenails clear
Head + Body length: 6cm, Tail length: 10.5cm, 11cm with tail tuft included
Ears: 9mm, Feet: 2cm, Body Width: approx 2.8cm.
DeWinton first described the Charming Dipodil in 1902 from Egyptian specimens in the Giza province. There have been suggestions that the Dipodil is in fact the same species as Gerbillus nanus, although smaller, its appearance and behaviour is similar. Ley (1983) remarked that both species share numerous physical and chromosomal similarities, and that the nature of their relationship should be further examined and careful revision made. He also noted it's past associations with Gerbillus dasyurus (Wagners Gerbil) and Gerbillus campestris (Rock Gerbil) and advised that future comparisons should be with Gerbillus nanus (Baluchistan Gerbil).
The Charming Dipodil was introduced into the UK in September 2002, and is probably the smallest species of gerbil currently being kept in the UK. Despite its small stature it is reasonably easy to tame, has few specialist requirements and is a fairly easy subject to keep, I also feel it's a 'charming' subject to observe and study.
Despite only three initial specimens, two male and one female, it has proved a relatively easy subject to breed and should be available to NGS members over 2003.
The Charming Dipodil is a true 'dwarf Gerbil' being approx 6-8cm, and possessing a very long tail with a tuft at the end. The coat is red/brown agouti and the belly is clear white, with a clear demarcation line between back and belly. Its ears are naked and pigmented. Behind the ears and above the eyes are lighter patches of fur. Its upper foot is white and the soles are naked and unpigmented with clear toenails.
Although only recorded from Egypt and Libya, it is speculated that the species may also range across Tunisia and Algeria to Mauritania.
Dipodils also possess scent glands and in large aquaria can be observed rubbing their bellies on different items and also on the tanks base, to mark their territory.
Populations of Dipodils can be found in widely differing terrain and have adapted well in the differing geographical regions. They can be found from the lush coastal regions to the virtually bare hamadas, but seem most abundant in areas of loose sand and salty marshes. In Libya they can be observed occupying areas of loose soft sand at the base of date palms to sandy clay regions. Populations also thrive near agricultural areas. Their burrows are relatively simple and may be around 25 cms deep, however being opportunistic in nature they will also occupy burrows of other rodents.
Dipodils suffer from no particular health problems and are a rather robust species that can live from 2 - 5 years.
The Charming Dipodil is nocturnal and I notice activity starting at approx 9 p.m, although on rare occasions I have observed the odd Dipodil foraging in the afternoon. The females appear to be dominant and can get aggressive at times. They also chase off offspring at six weeks or earlier. Adults can be paired up by using the split cage method or alternatively by placing the female in a small tank then place this inside the male's quarters for several days; this allows the male to introduce himself on a gradual basis. At present I keep my pairs in 30-inch aquariums. At least one third of the tank should consist of safe play sand or Aragonite sand. This is necessary as the animals fur can get very greasy, and if not bathed in sand regularly will not only look bad but also the fur will be unable to isolate itself properly. A small nest box or upturned plant pot is ideal for breeding purposes, and toilet roll tubes are used with relish by these animals not only as play items but as tunnel networks as well. Bedding can either be shredded paper or plain toilet roll tissue.
The above methods have several advantages from a breeding and husbandry standpoint
Charming Dipodil's are constantly curious investigating any new item placed in their tank, and will use every inch of tank space given. They appreciate a solid wheel and use it from a very early age.
A standard gerbil mix, with a fine seed mix added works well, also a weekly portion of millet spray is appreciated. Dry wholemeal bread can also be given once a week. A once a week/fortnight supplement of fruit or vegetable is also eaten. At present I've tried small slices of apple, green grape, sweet potato and carrot. They may be insectivorous in nature like Gerbillus Nanus, so I plan to introduce an insect bird food such as Bogena during the summer months. A water bottle is provided and is used by both adults and juveniles, however I would imagine that they could derive most of their water requirements from veg/fruit supplementation and carbohydrate metabolism, similar to Gerbillus Nanus.
Article by Eddie Cope