Spalacopus cyanus (Rodentia: Octodontidae): an extremist in tunnel constructing and food storing among subterranean mammals



Burrow systems of two coastal populations (El Alamo and Los Maitenes) of the social octodontid rodent Spalacopus cyanus were studied in central Chile. Tunnel systems were estimated to be up to 600 m long, ran at a depth of 15 cm and had a diameter of 6 cm. Tunnel openings were usually unplugged, and a minor preference toward southern and south-eastern direction of entrances was apparent. Nests, frequently found in the root system of Berberis actinacantha at a depth of 30 cm, consisted of grasses, roots and plastic bags. Nests serve for sleep, care of the pups and as latrines. Many staphylinid beetles of the genus Edrabius and other invertebrates were found in the breeding nests. Food chambers contained up to 13.2 kg of bulbs of the geophyte Dioscorea longipes collected by a single colony consisting of 26 animals (including 10 adults) and were frequently found at El Alamo. However, no bulbs were found at Los Maitenes, where the coruros forage above ground on leaves of Convolvulus arvensis within a radius of about 10 cm of the entrances. Apparently, the burrow design is also affected by food availability, soil quality, and colony size.