Roborovski hamster

Roborovski Hamster

Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Rodentia
Family:Cricetidae
Subfamily:Cricetinae
Genus:Phodopus
Species:P. roborovskii
Binomial name
Phodopus roborovskii
(Satunin, 1903)


Roborovskis (Phodopus roborovskii) are the smallest and fastest of all hamsters which are commonly kept as pets. Distinguishing characteristics of the Roborovskis are the white spots where the eyebrows would be, and the lack of the dorsal stripe seen in all other dwarf hamsters. They live, on average, to three and a half years of age - the longest of any domestic hamster. Recently, a mutation has arisen producing a "husky", also known as "white-faced", phase. Breeding these lines with agouti Roborovskis produces a diluted appearance of their natural brown colour.

Habitat

Roborovski hamsters live in the wild around the Gobi Desert, throughout Mongolia's desert steppe and parts of northern China. They are particularly suited to the steppe, as they are highly efficient in their use of water (as evidenced by how they may pass particularly concentrated urine), so little vegetation is required. Here, they dig burrows to inhabit. These are usually steep tunnels and they live between 60 and 200cm. below ground. Some burrows have been known to go 6 feet down![1]

History of Human Contact

Unsurprisingly, it was Lt. Roborovski who first made note of these hamsters. He discovered them on an expedition in July of 1894, though they were not studied scientifically for the best part of another decade, till Satunin made observations in 1903. London Zoo imported them into the U.K. in the 1960s[2], but the first studied in Britain were imported in the 1970s from Moscow Zoo. (None of these hamsters, however, bore offspring.)[1] Continental European countries had more success in breeding Roborovskis, however, and the Roborovskis currently in the U.K. are descendants of a batch imported from the Netherlands in 1990. They were imported in the U.S.A. in 1998[1], where they remain uncommon, though they are now commonly found in pet shops in several countries. In South Korea, they are almost as common as Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamsters in pet shops.

Pet Ownership

Roborovskis are very curious, easily startled, and generally timid. Their suitability as pets to be handled is further diminished by their size and speed. Roborovskis are, however, extremely social and affectionate with each other, and when housed together from an early age, sleep in one place and indeed eat, play, etc. things together. They have a very good temperament and rarely bite either each other or people.

Housing

As they grow to be on average 4.5cm long - roughly the length of an adult's thumb - Roborovskis can easily squeeze through the bars of a standard hamster cage, and so careful consideration needs to be given to housing. The gaps between bars should be approximately 7mm in width. First-time owners are advised to enquire of pet shop owners or breeders as to the suitability of cages.

Breeding

If kept together in mixed sex pairs or groups, Roborovski Hamsters usually start to breed in the spring following the year in which the female was born. Females often become sterile at around 24 months of age but males usually remain fertile for most of their life. Roborovski hamsters gestate for around 23-30 days. When born, they resemble pink beans. At around 5-6 days the skin may start to pigment and at 6-8 days hair begins to emerge. By 10-12 days they are covered in short fur and the eyelids are beginning to mature. At this time they may also start wandering around the cage, even though still blind. The mother will usually collect the wandering young and return them to the nest - this may be accompanied by squealing from the young, but is not usually anything to worry about. At 14-16 days of age the eyes open and the babies are fully covered in fur. They are fully weaned and can be removed from the mother at 5-6 weeks of age.




Roborovskis' facial markings and features differ notably from those of other hamsters.

Roborovskis are extremely social and like to sleep together.

Roborovskis are the smallest and fastest of all hamsters.


Footnotes

1. ^ Website specifically about Roborovski hamsters
2. ^ Roborovski Hamsters. Hamsters. Pet Web Site - Acorn Internet Ltd. Retrieved on 2006-12-11.

External links

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Chordata
Bateson, 1885

Typical Classes

See below

Chordates (phylum Chordata) are a group of animals that includes the vertebrates, together with several closely related invertebrates.
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J. Fischer, 1817

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Cricetidae is a family of rodents in the large and complex superfamily Muroidea.
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Miller, 1910

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Phodopus campbelli
Phodopus roborovskii
Phodopus sungorus

The dwarf hamsters represent a group of small hamsters in the genus Phodopus.
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Cricetinae
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Allocricetulus is a genus of hamster in the Cricetidae family.
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