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Abstract

Mole rats from two chromosomal species (2n = 58 and 2n = 60) of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies of Israel were tested to determine whether they were able to discriminate differences in the odour of urine from same-sex individuals of their own and of the other chromosomal species. An habituation-discrimination apparatus was designed for use with these solitary and blind subterranean rodents. Animals habituated to the odour of urine from one individual presented for 10 min at a centre sniffing area in the roof of a 50 cm long Perspex tunnel. The odour of urine from the original donor and from a second individual were presented at two other sniffing areas in the tunnel roof during a 5 min discrimination phase. Significant differences in the time spent investigating the two odours demonstrated successful discrimination between them. The results indicate that male and female mole rats of both species can discriminate between the individual-specific odour cues in urine from pairs of conspecifics and pairs of heterospecific mole rats.