Brain size diversity in adaptation and speciation of subterranean mole rats

E. Nevo, P. Pirlot, A. Beiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have tested brain size diversity and encephalization in the actively speciating subterranean mole rats of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies in Israel. Our sample involved 171 individuals comprising 12 populations and 4 chromosomal species (2n = 52, 54, 58 and 60) distributed parapatrically from the northern Mediterranean region southward (2n = 52, 54→+58→60) into increasingly more arid and unpredictable climatic regimes, approaching the Negev Desert. Our results indicate that relative brain size and encephalization are highest in 2n = 60 as compared with 2n = 52, 54 and 58. We hypothesize that this pattern is adaptive and molded by natural selection. Brain evolution and higher encephalization in the S. ehrenbergi complex appears to be associated with increasing ecological stresses of aridity and climatic unpredictability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-479
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1988


  • Brain evolution
  • Ecological unpredictability
  • Encephalization
  • Natural selection
  • Spalax ehrenbergi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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