The colony structure and reproductive biology of the afrotropical Mashona mole-rat, Cryptomys darlingi



Cryptomys darlingi occurs in the mesic Miombo woodland of north-eastem Zimbabwe. It occurs in colonies of up to nine individuals, in which reproduction is limited to one of the largest males and the largest female in the colony.

Reproduction and details of colony size and number of breeding animals in a colony are described for five complete field-captured colonies.

In captivity, mating is not confined to a particular season, and up to three litters of pups are orn per annum. The reproductive female initiates the pre-copulatory behaviour. The gestation lengti is 56–61 days (n = 2). The new-born pups are altricial and litter size is small x̄ = 1.7 ± 0.5 (n = 6). In this case, the pups first left the nest 10 days after birth, began to eat solids when 14 days old, and were fully weaned at five weeks. They began to spar with each other when 36–40 days old, but did not disperse and were incorporated into the colony. This suggests that the Mashona mole-rat colonies are composed of a founding pair and at least three successive litters of pups.