Burrow patterns of the mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi in two soil types (terra‐rossa and rendzina) in Mount Carmel, Israel

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Complete burrow systems of the mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi (Rodentia; Spalacidae), from two sites on Mount Carmel in Israel, with different soil types (terra‐rossa and rendzina), were excavated and described here for the first time. A comparison was made of burrow structure patterns in the two soils and of the sexes, with special attention to the features of the feeding tunnels. The pattern in the rendzina revealed longer burrows with a longer main tunnel and fewer branches per metre of the main tunnel, while the pattern in the terra‐rossa revealed shorter burrows with a shorter main tunnel and a relatively higher number of branches. These differences can primarily be related to the different levels of food availability, which is higher in the terra‐rossa. It is suggested that each of the patterns reflects the mole rat's ability to optimize foraging efficiency in accordance with its given food availability. The average total length of the males' burrows was much greater than those of the females' burrows in the rendzina soil. It appears that food requirements determine different burrow features of the sexes rather than reproduction requirements. Other tunnel features (e.g. structural complexity, depth and width, segment length and spatial arrangement) and the factors which may affect them, as well as burrow structure of young mole rats and evidence of the underground dispersion of young mole rats, were presented and discussed. Many similarities were found in a comparison of S. ehrenbergi burrow features with those of other solitary subterranean rodents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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