Adaptive exploratory behaviour: Differential patterns in species and sexes of subterranean mole rats

G. Heth, E. Nevo, A. Beiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exploratory behaviour of 111 males and 175 females of blind subterranean, adult mole rats, belonging to the four chromosomal species (2n = 52, 54, 58, 60) of the superspecies Spalax ehrenbergi in Israel, was compared and contrasted by their locomotion pattern displayed in a test apparatus which presented an unfamiliar environment. The results indicated that (a) The « humid » chromosomal species (2n = 52, 58), which live under a humid climatic regime, are more exploratory than the « xeric » species (2n = 54, 60). (b) Males exhibited remarkably higher levels of exploration than females, (c) Generally, mole rat exploration was higher during the nonbreeding season (April-October) than in the breeding season (November-March). This phenomenon was especially marked in the « xeric » species (2n = 54, 60). We suggest that the exploratory patterns of mole rats species and sexes are adaptive, and are presumably molded by ecological forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank S. Simson for field and laboratory assistance and E.M. Golenberg for critically commenting on the manuscript. This research was partly supported by the Golan Center for Research, contract No. 933, Israel Discount Bank Chair of Evolutionary Biology, and the Ancell-Teicher Research Foundation for Genetics and Molecular Evolution,established by Florence and Theodore Baumritter of New York.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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