Editor: Janet Morrow
___________________AMERICAN GERBIL SOCIETY______________________
Welcome to the second issue of the AGS Newsletter. The American Gerbil Society Inc. Show Standards have been complete, and we have are preparing for our first show. We look forward from hearing more from Donna Anastai, Committee Chairperson, with more details of the New England show.
To help us all learn the standards better we will be holding a Virtual show. This is a great opportunity for us to become familiar with the standards while having a ton of fun. Jocelyn Kessinger is the Show Secretary/Committee Chairperson. She and her committee will be working to organize and run the show.
Our membership continues to grow with 181 members in 37 states, and 5 different countries. We would like to welcome our newest members: Jenn M., Terry, Becky, David, Jenn DS, Sophia, Elizabeth, Patricia, Victoria, Kristina, Lanny, Chris, Sarah, Teresa, Doug, Deanna, DeeAnne, Camille, Alexandra, Katelyn, Dani, Russel, Michael, and Dana.
I would like to thank everyone that has contributed articles for this issue. Keep them coming. If you have a created a gerbil story, poem, and drawing send it in.
If you are not currently on the AGS e-group, and would like to join send me an email. If you do not want to receive the daily emails you can receive only special/important announcements from the AGS Board. This is the only way you will stay informed of AGS shows, activities, and votes.
AGS Show Standards
The AGS recognizes the need for an international conformity of standards in identifying gerbil colors and other characteristics for registration and for exhibition purposes. Towards this end, certain of the AGS standards will mirror those standards that are already widely recognized and accepted by some of our sister societies, including but not limited to the National Gerbil Society & Swedish Gerbil Association.
The AGS, as an issuing authority of gerbil standards in its own right, will regularly review its existing standards, modify them when deemed necessary and add additional standards as the need arises.
The Basic Standard, by which all show gerbils are judged, is based upon the allocation of points for various features.
General Appearance & Temperament
Body: Symmetry and general appearance of the body are decidedly solid and firm. Females should be streamline and athletic in appearance. Males may have a larger, heftier body-type, but should not appear fat. There should be no signs of wounds or scars on the body. The gerbil should be in top health. The head is short and broad, and well set into the body. Teeth should not be overgrown or broken. Whiskers are long and full.
Fur: The coat is full, fine, soft, short, and has a smooth, healthy sheen without any greasy appearance. (Shows: adult gerbils shall not be molting.)
Tail & Tuft: The tail shall be held straight back for balance when the gerbil is in motion - free from kinks and ending with a brush like tuft. In an adult the tail shall be the same length as the body.
Eyes: The eyes shall be bright, widely set, and large but not bulging. They should have an almond shape and be symmetrical.
Ears: The ears shall be fairly small, not too rounded and carried erect.
Temperament: Gerbils shall be tame and friendly towards people, and show gentleness toward cage mates. They should exhibit a temperament that is curious, active, confident, even-tempered, exhibiting stability, playfulness, with an outgoing, loving disposition. Biting, nipping, and aggressive behavior shall be discouraged when breeding.
Show Penalties and Disqualifications
Ruby Eyed White
Pink Eyed White
Black Eyed White
The ideal animal will be distinctively marked with a striking contrast of colors. The shading should be gradual and pleasantly blended away from all points, except the ears, which will contrast with shading. The shading will be darker towards the ends of the animal. At no point will the coat color suddenly change.
“The greatness of a nation and it's Moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated.”
Basic Genetics Cheat Sheet
There are six "loci" or dimensions of color:
The capital letters are "dominate" that means if the gerbil carries it, you can see it by their appearance. The small letters are "recessive", you can only see the effect of a recessive if it is paired with another recessive, otherwise the dominate letter would mask it.
Seizures in Gerbils
by Julian Barker “National Gerbils Society”
One small problem in gerbils is almost never discussed. That is seizures, or as they are more commonly called, fits. These seizures usually result from some form of stimulation, for example, excessive handling, being placed in a new cage or tank.
There are two main types of seizure. The first and less serious involves the gerbil freezing. It will appear to simply stare into space whilst standing low on all four legs. If picked up the gerbil will appear floppy and lacking in normal muscle control. This may last for no more than a minute or two, although it can last longer. The more severe type of seizure will involve the gerbil twitching with a series of violent muscular contractions that will last a few seconds, but rarely longer than half a minute. This more violent type of fit will usually lead to a period of about ten minutes when the gerbil will appear to be suffering from the first type of seizure. Although you will probably not notice it, scientists have discovered that in the days following a fit a gerbil will be more active than usual.
Both types of fit are usually harmless. Fits that cause damage or are in other ways serious are extremely rare. The warning signs of problems are if the gerbil does not come out of the first type of fit for an excessive period of time, or in the case of the second type, if the jerking goes on for more than a minute, if there are repeating bouts of fitting without the gerbil seeming to recover there is probably a cause for the fits such as brain injury. If none of these occur then simply leave your gerbil in a quiet dark place for a few hours for it to fully recover. If there are danger signs there is probably little you can do. However, remember that these problems only happen in an extremely small proportion of gerbils that suffer seizures.
Most gerbils that have seizures are very young. Five or six weeks old is typical. In nearly all cases the tendency to fit reduces as the gerbil ages. Whilst fitting in juvenile gerbils is common, in adults it is fairly unusual unless they started seizures when young. Notwithstanding this almost all gerbils that fit will grow out of it.
Interestingly, there is evidence that at least some gerbils inherit the tendency to fit from their mothers. Whether this is inherited genetically, or whether it is the result of some maternal behaviour that is copied by offspring and triggers seizures later in life is not fully established, although there is evidence showing that both probably influence the susceptibility to fits. Regardless of the mode of transmission, scientists have managed to breed strains that are more likely to fit and those that are less likely to, so it is a good idea not to breed from any gerbil that suffers from seizures. Scientists have studied the differences between seizure prone gerbils and those that are more resistant to seizures. They have found that seizure prone gerbils spend far less time in social activity, including scent gland marking, and aggressive behaviour than non-sezure prone gerbils.
Scientists have also looked at whether colour affects the tenancy to fit. The scientists used strains bred for seizures so their results may not be significant for your gerbils, but they found that when compairing Golden Agouti, Argente Golden and Black gerbils, that Argente Golden ones suffered shorter seizures and that the seizures were less severe. So why are scientists so interested in these seizures in gerbils? Gerbil seizures are very similar to the epileptic fits suffered by humans and other mammals. They even respond to the same drugs. Because it is possible to breed strains that are very prone to having fits, and because such strains can be encouraged to suffer seizures more or less to order, these gerbils are an important part of epilepsy research aimed at understanding the causes of epileptic seizures and the treatments that can prevent them.
There are some suggestions that fitting may have an evolutionary advantage in that it may confuse predators, however I am sceptical about this myself.
The important thing to remember is that seizures in gerbils are rarely a serious problem. Simple peace and quiet will usually promote a quick recovery, and when not fitting, susceptible gerbils will act the same as any other gerbil.
EPILEPSY AND BEHAVIOUR OF THE MONGOLIAN GERBIL: AN ETHOLOGICAL STUDY: Cutler, M.G., Mackintosh, J.H., 1989, Physiology & Behavior, 46(4), 561-6
INFLUENCE OF COAT COLOR GENES ON SEIZURE BEHAVIOR IN MONGOLIAN GERBILS.: Gray-Allan, P., Wong, R., 1990, Behaviour Genetics, 20(4), 481-485
EFFECTS OF FOSTERING ON SEIZURE ACTIVITY IN THE MONGOLIAN GERBIL: Kaplan, H, 1981, Developmental Psychobiology, 14(6), 565-70
Gerbils – The concept of “Clan”
by Donna Anastasi “ABC Gerbils”
Caring for gerbils is easy, as long as you understand fully the concept of “clan”. “Clan” is what makes gerbils unique and engaging. “Clan” makes gerbils different from most other animals with a devotion and care for one another is in some ways akin to human relations.
“Clan” first and foremost means that gerbils need a gerbil companion. This is essential to their health and well-being. A gerbil companion is needed for warmth, security, protection, grooming, nesting, and just gnawing up a paper towel roll together.
So, can you just place two gerbil together? No! While gerbils are closely bonded to their clan members, outsiders will be attacked violently. There are some exceptions: such as introducing two very young pups or a nurturing adult male to a pup. But in most cases, the way to introduce two gerbils is by using a “split tank”. This means separating the tank on the diagonal with sturdy mesh wire, anchoring it to the tank with masking tape (providing no gaps for the gerbils to go under, over, or around). Put one gerbil on each side and swap them back and forth as many times a day as you can. When you see them building nests next to one another on either side of the mesh, they are becoming “clanned”.
In about a week, remove the divider. Watch the pair closely until they groom one another and share the same nest. Also, with any gerbil introduction make sure you wear heavy gloves. If you stick your bare hands into the middle of a gerbil fight, you will receive a set of deep puncture wounds intended as the death blow to the gerbil combatant. If one gerbil chases the other around the tank at top speed with the victim flinching or leaping in the air, immediately replace the divider. Put one gerbil on either side and give them more time in the split cage. If the gerbils get into a “ball fight”, replace the divider. After a full-fledged, ball fight battle chance for these two being clanned is slim.
Gerbil society is a matriarchy, which means at most one dominant adult female to any clan. Here are the possible make-ups for gerbil clans:
Gerbils bred in a proper clan setup (namely, one male and one female) are attentive and dedicated parents. Both the mother and father gerbils take an active role in caring for the pups.
A tricky aspect of clanning is that if a gerbil gets coated with the smell of a stranger gerbil it will be attacked. Therefore, it is important never to share toys between gerbil tanks and not to use the same plastic containers to hold your different tanks when you clean out the housing. It is a good habit to wash your hands between handing gerbils from different tanks. And always wash your hand before handing pups since gerbil moms are on high alert against foreign smells. If a gerbil is separated from its cage mate for over 24 hours, the gerbil is no longer recognized as “clan”; re-introduce the gerbil using a split cage.
While gerbils are adaptive to changes to their clan composition when they are young (under six months), once your gerbils are older, they need to stay in their established clans. Breaking up an older breeding or same-sexed pair can be so traumatic on the gerbils that they do not survive the split on their own or even with a new partner.
Observing gerbils in their clan as they groom, nest, play, and learn from one another is one of the best parts about keeping gerbils. As I watch their family interactions, I often think we people have much to learn from these small creatures.
Prairie Home’s Zoo
by Jocie Kessinger “The Titan Clan & Anomaly Clan”
I am a high school student (currently in my junior year) at Prairie Home High School. I live in the country between Prairie Home (a town of about 220 people) and Boonville in Missouri. I also have a house in Columbia where my mom lives. I stay there a lot on weekends and during the summer. Having two locations really helps in finding good homes and placing my gerbils.
I can't remember a time in my life with out animals. “How is the zoo doing?” is a very common question for me to be asked while walking down the halls of my high school. Currently I own: 1 rabbit, 14 rats, around 25 cats (5 are mine, others are barn or family cats), 1 Australian Shepherd, and of course all the gerbils (the exact number changes a lot). In the past I have owned, iguanas, fish, parakeets, hamsters, horses, many different breeds of dogs, guinea pigs, and we even had a tarantula when I was younger.
My gerbils are divided into two clans; The Titan Clan, and the Anomaly Clan. TTC is the clan I breed gerbils to sell as pets and breeders from. It usually contains around 4 breeding pairs and can produce most colors. These would also be the gerbils I would show or take to do demonstrations on care, genetics, or just how wonderful gerbils are as pets(which I do often at school). My second clan, TAC, is slightly different (as the name implies). These gerbils (the originals of which were given to me by Michael and Sharon Fazi) have a very strange coat pattern. I am working with them to try and bring that pattern out.
Gerbils are of course not the only thing in my life. Like I said I am still in high school so that takes up a lot of my time. I am about an A-/B+ student and rank high in my class (which is only 13 people). I am really into art and plan to go to an art collage to be a graphic designer. I also love to read and love music (mostly faster beats like rap), and my computer. I think animals however will always be my main love in life. I am very happy to be a part of the AGS...
by Alexandra Hawken The Glosette Clan
My gerbil's name is Raisin.
by Alexandra Hawken The Glosette Clan
Peanut is a cream gerbil
Ode to Percil (In proper Sonnet form)
by Melanie Gall and Percil of course!
O mouselet, sweet and warm as summer's breath
So staunchly undertaking every task
Lo, jaded by the world you'll never be
But rather in the gentle giants who feed,
© 2001 American Gerbil Society Inc.