The reproductive biology of the Cape mole-rat, Georychus capensis (Rodentia, Bathyergidae)



Georychus capensis is a seasonal breeder with the reproductive potential of producing two litters during the summer breeding season (August to December). These solitary mole-rats signal to each other through the soil, by drumming with their hind feet. This drumming is probably important in spacing the burrow systems and in triggering the onset of reproductive behaviour. In a captive male the onset of drumming was accompanied by a rise in urinary testosterone concentrations and the enlargement of testes and accessory reproductive glands. The male appeared to drum with a different frequency to the female. Courtship is initiated by the male and copulation involves brief multiple intromissions. The gestation period is about 44 days and the mean litter size is 5.9 with a maximum of 10 pups. Development of the pups is relatively rapid. Inter-sibling aggression begins to develop at 35 days, eventually resulting in the pups dispersing when about 60 days old. Body mass increases exponentially from birth to day 60 and the asymptote is reached around day 260. These features are compared with those of other solitary subterranean rodents and with those of the social Bathyergidae (Cryptomys hottentotus, Cryptomys damarensis and Heterocephalus glaber).