Adaptive variation in structure and function of kidneys of speciating subterranean mole rats

Eviatar Nevo, Shimon Simson, Avidgor Beiles, Shlomo Yahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on kidney structure and function in subterranean mammals of four chromosomal species (2 n=52, 54, 58 and 60) belonging to the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies, in relation to their speciation and adaptive radiation from mesic (2 n=52) to xeric (2 n=60) environments in Israel. Structural variables measured involved: (1) Relative Medullary Thickness, (RMT); (2) Relative Kidney Weight. (RKW); and (3) Percentage of Kidney out of Body Weight (PKW). Functional variables involved: (i) Urine Solid Concentration, (USC); and (ii) Urine Osmotic Concentration (UOC). The results for chromosomal species 2 n=52, 54, 58 and 60 indicated nonsignificant increase southward for RMT, but displayed significant increase along the same transect for RKW, PKW, and USC. The UOC was significantly lower in mesic 2 n=52 as compared to the other three species when experimental animals were fed in the laboratory on regular carrot food. However, protein stress food (soybean) and salt stress of 0.45 mol NaCl, caused significant, three and a half fold increase of UOC in 2 n=52, 54 and 58; but four and a half fold increase in 2 n=60, significantly higher than in the other three species. We conclude that both structurally and functionally, the kidneys differentiated adaptively during the Pleistocene evolution of S. ehrenbergi in Israel, in accordance with aridity stress and halophyte food resources towards the desert. Nevertheless, Spalax generally shows clear upper limits in kidney structural and functional capacities, preventing it from colonizing the true desert, south of the 100 mm isohyete.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-371
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1989


  • Adaptation
  • Kidney
  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Speciation
  • Urine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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