The social structure and reproductive biology of the common mole-rat, Cryptomys h. hottentotus and remarks on the trends in reproduction and sociality in the family Bathyergidae

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Abstract

Cryptomys h. hottentotus occurs in mesic and semi-arid regions of South Africa. It lives in colonies ofup to 14 individuals, in which reproduction is limited to one ofthe largest males and the largest female in the colony.

Reproduction and details of colony size and the number of breeding animals in a colony are described for one complete and two incomplete field-captured colonies. One incomplete colony was kept in captivity for more than 3 years, whereas the complete colony was autopsied.

The social hierarchy of the common mole-rat is almost linear and has a value of 0.7 1 calculated from Landau's linearity index. Subordinate mole-rats weighed less than dominant mole-rats. The reproductive mole-rats are the dominant animals within the colony. The non-reproductive females rank lowest in the hierarchy.

Mating was not confined to a particular season, but occurred more frequently during the summer months. The alpha male initiated pre-copulatory behaviour. The gestation length is 55 to 66 days (n = 2). Two litters each of three pups were born to the colony during captivity. The pups were relatively altricial. They wandered out of the nest 5 days after birth, began to eat solids when 10 days old, and were fully weaned at 4 weeks. When 2 weeks old the pups began to spar with each other and with some of the adult colony members, but levels of aggression were never high. The pups did not disperse but were incorporated into the colony, this suggesting that C. h. hottentotus colonies are largely composed of related individuals.

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