gerbil

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gerbil

(jûr`bĭl), small desert rodentrodent,
member of the mammalian order Rodentia, characterized by front teeth adapted for gnawing and cheek teeth adapted for chewing. The Rodentia is by far the largest mammalian order; nearly half of all mammal species are rodents.
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 found throughout the hot arid regions of Africa and Asia. Also known as sand rats, gerbils have large eyes and powerful, elongated hind limbs upon which they can spring. Gerbils are 3 to 5 in. (7.6–12.7 cm) long, excluding the long tufted tail, and are sandy, gray, brown, or reddish in color with white underparts. Most species are nocturnal, and all live in burrows. Their diet consists of seeds and grains; they also eat desert plants, from which they obtain almost all the water they need. With the exception of a few species, gerbils tend to hoard food. In recent years gerbils have become popular as house pets. They are odorless, easy to raise, and usually gentle. Females may bear as many as 15 litters in a lifetime; each litter may contain up to 10 young. Gerbils are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Cricetidae.

gerbil

[′jər·bəl]
(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for about 100 species of African and Asian rodents composing the subfamily Gerbillinae.

gerbil

, gerbille
any burrowing rodent of the subfamily Gerbillinae, inhabiting hot dry regions of Asia and Africa and having soft pale fur: family Cricetidae