The opportunities and challenges that life underground poses have led to remarkable examples of adaptive evolution in subterranean species. Here, we report two amazing specialised adaptations in a typical subterranean species, plateau zokor (Eospalax baileyi): (1) the flaky thumb claw, which facilitates the holding and cleaning of vegetation roots in the dark; and (2) largely elongated compulsory arousal duration from deep sleep, which may affect its safety in the subterranean niche. To our knowledge this is the first report of these adaptations relevant to specialisations of underground species. We propose that these findings will provide valuable information for further understanding of the developmental mechanisms involved in patterning distal limb appendages as well as sleep physiology.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Training Qualified People Plan “Hope of Western China” of The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Personnel of China (No. O954021211) and General Programs of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30970366). We also thank Yamit Marom of Tel Aviv University, Israel, who provided analogous information on Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies.
- adaptive evolution
- compulsory arousal duration
- plateau zokor
- subterranean rodent
- thumb claw
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology