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Although inbred domesticated strains of rats and mice serve as traditional mammalian animal models in biomedical research, the nocturnal habits of these rodents make them inappropriate for research that requires a model with human-like diurnal activity rhythms. We conducted a literature review and recorded locomotor activity data from four rodent species that are generally considered to be diurnally active, the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus), the degu (Octodon degus), the African (Nile) grass rat (Arvicanthis niloticus), and the antelope ground squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus). Our data collected under 12L:12D light-dark cycles confirmed and expanded the existing literature in showing that the activity rhythms of antelope ground squirrels and African grass rats are stronger and more concentrated in the light phase of the light-dark cycle than the activity rhythms of Mongolian gerbils and degus, making the former two species preferable and more reliable as models of consistent diurnal activity in the laboratory. Among the two more strongly diurnal species, antelope ground squirrels are more exclusively diurnal and have more robust activity rhythms than African grass rats. Although animals of these two species are not currently available from commercial suppliers, African grass rats are indigenous to a wide area across the north of Africa and thus available to researchers in the eastern hemisphere, whereas antelope ground squirrels can be found throughout much of western North America’s desert country and, therefore, are more easily accessible to North American researchers.

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Refinetti, R.; & Kenagy, G.J. "Diurnally Active Rodents for Laboratory Research", Laboratory Animals, 52(6), pp. 577-587. Copyright © 2018, SAGE. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. doi: 10.1177/0023677218771720