Aggression patterns in adaptation and speciation of subterranean mole rats

Eviatar Nevo, Giora Heth, Avigdor Beiles

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The patterns and correlates of aggression within and between actively speciating subterranean mole rats of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel were tested in an attempt to approach an evolutionary theory of aggression related to both adaptation and speciation. Laboratory experiments were conducted on 314 adult mole rats (188 males and 126 females) caught in nature, representing 12 populations and comprising four chromosomal species (2n = 52, 54, 58, 60). The present analysis concentrates on "total aggression" comprising four aggressive variables: attacks, bitings, head-ons and sniffing with open mouth, out of 23 recorded variables. The results indicate that (a) aggression is distributed as a multipeak, discontinuous phenotypic parameter, displaying polymorphism within all 12 populations and 4 species tested; (b) the level of aggression was higher in males than in females, in the breeding than in the nonbreeding season, and displayed clinal geographic variation in both sexes across the superspecies range, where "militancy" increased northwards; (c) aggression was significantly correlated with ecological, physiological, genetical and ethological factors. These results support an evolutionary theory of aggression related to the intertwined processes of adaptation and speciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 1986


  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • adaptation
  • genetic polymorphism of aggression
  • speciation
  • subterranean mole rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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