Department of Zoology, School of Veterinary Medicine, D-30559 Hannover, Germany
Colleagues keep asking me about the correct common name of Phodopus sungorus. Is it the Djungarian hamster or the Siberian hamster or the Striped hairy-footed hamster? And what about Phodopus campbelli, is it the Djungarian hamster or Campbell’s hamster, or what? In fact, there is considerable confusion also in the literature concerning the common names for two of the now recognized three main species of the genus Phodopus, namely Phodopus sungorus (Pallas, 1773) and Phodopus campbelli (Thomas, 1905). The third species, Phodopus roborovski (Satunin, 1903), the ”Desert hamster”, is rarely used as a laboratory animal and is so different in its habitus from the two other Phodopus species that it cannot be mistaken (Ross 1994). In contrast, P. sungorus and P. campbelli are looking very similar to the unexperienced eye and I have visited several labs where colleagues claimed to have a colony of P. sungorus but instead it turned out to be P. campbelli. And in publications – even from the same laboratory – one can find both common names ”Djungarian hamster” and ”Siberian hamster” for P. sungorus as well as for P. campbelli.
In the late 1960s a Chech scientist, Dr. Figala, came to the laboratory of Prof. Aschoff at the Max-Planck-Institute Andechs (Germany) on a ”von Humboldt stipend”. He brought with him two breeding pairs of Phodopus sungorus, started a colony and in collaboration with Goldau and Klaus Hoffmann made initial observations on seasonal changes in body weight, fur color and the occurrence of torpor in this dwarf hamster (Figala et al. 1968). Dr. Klaus Hoffmann soon realized the great potential of Phodopus and he deserves the merits of having introduced this hamster species as a very valuable animal model for pineal research (for a review see Steinlechner and Niklowitz 1992). Dr. Hoffmann was generous enough to give hamsters away to colleagues and by 1980 there were many laboratories all over the world working with Phodopus from Hoffmann’s stock or other sources.
At the time Klaus Hoffmann started his work Phodopus sungorus was considered to exist in two different geographical races: the nominate form of Phodopus sungorus sungorus, a north-western subspecies which turns white in winter, and Phodopus sungorus campbelli in the south-east of the distribution range which does not change its fur color in winter (Argyropulo 1933, Veselovski and Grundova 1964, Flint 1966). The generic name Phodopus was introduced by Miller (1910) and is derived from phodos, the genitive case of the Greek phos, meaning blister, and the Greek pous, meaning foot. It refers to the large coalesced pad on the plantar surface of each foot (Ross, 1994, 1995). The species name given by Pallas (1773) refers to the region ”Sungaria” (different spellings exist: Dsungaria or Djungaria or Zungaria, see map), south of the Altai mountains. The literal translation of the nominate form therefore is: ”the blister-footed (D)Sungarian (hamster)”. Since Hoffmann clearly worked with the nominate form, he consequently called it (as did most others before him, e.g.Veselovski and Grundova 1964, Flint 1966) the Djungarian hamster. The alternative name existing in the (English) literature at that time was the ”Hairyfooted hamster” (Ellerman and Morrison-Scott, 1951). Never (at least to my knowledge) was it called the ”Siberian hamster”. The other subspecies P. sungorus campbelli was named in honour of W.C. Campbell, who collected the type specimen in Inner Mongolia in 1902 (Ross 1995).