The Mongolian Gerbil, Meriones unguiculatus, is a common pet, but its life in the wild is anything but “common”. In fact, its social structure and breeding habits are among the rodent world’s most unique. Let’s take a look at what field research has revealed about this most interesting little creature. Read More »
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A Naturalist-Priest, Yellow Rats and Bacterial Research – The Contorted Story of the Gerbil’s (Meriones unguiculatus) Arrival in the Pet Trade
In 1862, a French missionary named Armand David was commissioned to China, ostensibly as a school teacher. However, the young priest had been deeply interested in nature since childhood and, as naturalists are want to do when finding themselves in exotic (or familiar!) locales, he began to collect all that walked, swam, flew or grew within reach.
A Missionary’s “Alternative” Calling
The specimens he sent back to France intrigued the director of the Natural History Museum in Paris, and funding allowing Father David to continue his collecting was soon arranged. From 1866 to 1874 he explored largely unstudied regions in northern and western China, and was eventually responsible for bringing hundreds of previously un-described species of animals and plants to the attention of European biologists. Read More »