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Reproduction in the East African root rat (Tachyoryctes splendens; Rodentia: Spalacidae) from Tanzania: the importance of rainfall

Authors

  • J. V. Katandukila,

    Corresponding author
    1. Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, South Africa
    2. Department of Zoology & Wildlife Conservation, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    • Correspondence

      Jestina Katandukila, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Gauteng 0002, South Africa

      Email: jestina@zoology.up.ac.za

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  • C. G. Faulkes,

    1. School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
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  • C. T. Chimimba,

    1. Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, South Africa
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  • N. C. Bennett

    1. Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, South Africa
    2. South African Research Chair for Mammal Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, South Africa
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  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Abstract

The East African root rat Tachyoryctes splendens (Rüppell, 1835) is a solitary subterranean rodent mole. The present study investigated breeding patterns in both sexes of T. splendens from data collected at monthly intervals over an entire calendar year. The study focused on the analyses from post-mortem examination of male and female East African root rats to assess the presence of foetuses, gonadal histology, reproductive tract morphometrics, measurement of gonadal steroids (plasma progesterone and oestradiol-17β in females and testosterone in males) and field observations (i.e. the presence of infants, juveniles, subadults and lactating females). The objective of this study was to assess if the reproductive biology of root rats reflected the bimodal pattern of rainfall that is characteristic of East Africa. Rainfall has been suggested to trigger breeding in many subterranean rodents and as a consequence, this study aimed to assess the relationship between rainfall and reproductive characteristics of T. splendens. Peaks in mean gonadal mass, increases in concentration of reproductive hormones and the presence of graafian follicles and corpora lutea in the ovaries of females, and testes mass, seminiferous tubule diameter and testosterone titre mirrored the annual peaks of precipitation at the study area. Together with field observations of the temporal occurrence of pregnancies, infants, juveniles and subadults, the data show that T. spendens cues its breeding with the patterns of rainfall, such that offspring are born in the latter half of each rainy season, from April to July and November to December.

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