• Ruqayya Khan

A camel of a gerbil

Native to the north African deserts, the fat-tailed gerbil, Pachyuromys duprasi, can be found after dusk scavenging for insects [1]. The fat-tailed gerbil is small and covered in long tan and gray fur with a white underbelly. Frequent sand baths keep their fur clean and healthy.

Like most desert dwellers, the fat-tailed gerbil has adapted to their dry environments. It survives by storing extra water and fats in their chubby tails, not unlike a camel’s hump [2]! One can gain insight into the health of fat-tailed gerbil by observing this plumpness of their stubby tails. A thin tail can indicate that the gerbil is lacking sufficient nutrients.

Fat-tailed gerbils by Peter Maas, [CC-BY-3.0], via eol.org

Their adaptation to conserve water may be why some rodent enthusiasts recommend keeping gerbils as pets over hamsters, as they typically use the bathroom less and aren’t as “stinky”. Additionally, the gerbil has a reputation of being calm and friendly towards humans. The fat-tailed gerbil is newer to the pet market compared to more commonly found Mongolian gerbil, but they are steadily gaining in popularity [3].

The gerbil community lovingly refers to this species of gerbils as “doops”, based off the pronunciation of their species name duprasi. These adorable animals can inspire a lot of joy in their owners. Check out for example these great illustrations by the artist PawLove of their doop, Pita!

Today, we share the genome assembly of the fat-tailed gerbil. Many thanks to Blossum from the Houston Zoo for providing the sample for this assembly! This is a $1K genome assembly with contig N50 = 48 Kb and scaffold N50 = 70 Mb (see Dudchenko et al., 2018 for procedure details).

If you’re interested in genome assemblies of some other great house pets, check out those for the golden hamster and the Chinese hamster on the DNA Zoo website!

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