Evidence of aboveground pradation and age determination of the preyed, in subterranean mole rats (spalax ehrenbergi) in israel

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Evidence of surface prédation and age of the preyed subterranean mole rats Spalax ehrenbergi were obtained by the following methods : (1) analysis of mole rat frequency in the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) diet, (2) recording of available information on mole rats surface predation by nightly and daily raptors, and (3) age structure determination using recent and microfossil samples of preyed mole rats. It was determined that (a) mole rats consist of 0.3 % of the preyed rodents and insectivores in the analyzed sample of Barn Owl pellets, (b) information on mole rat surface predation was rare, however, recorded evidence revealed that mole rats are preyed mainly during the night by owls (Strigiformes) species, but also by several species of daily raptors (Bonelli's and Golden eagles, Long-legged buzzard and Egyptian vulture) and by other bird species (Hooded crow and Smyrna kingfisher), (c) subadult individuals consist of the major age group (63.7 %) in the microfossil sample of preyed mole rats, followed by the adults (27.0 %) and juveniles (2-6 months) (9.3 °/o) groups. The results support the suggestion that mole rats surface activity and predation are uncommon events which are not particularly related to juvenile (2-6 months) dispersal phenomenon, that probably accurs mainly by burrowing underground. It is hypothesized that dispersal of subadults, partly done aboveground, intrapopulation territorial aggression between subadult and adult individuals,.and environmental conditions (rockiness, flooding, etc.) which mole rats of all ages are sometimes forced to move into, may contribue to the generally rare and accidental surface activity and predation of mole rats, as well as of the age structure of preyed mole rats, found in the present study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-542
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am greatly indebted to Y. Lazaros for laboratory assistance, to J.C. Auffray, K. Marom and Y. Gelb, for field assistance, to G. Davidovitz, N. Levi, R. Inbar, D. Meninger, Z. Zook-Rimon, Z. Shariv, M. Ben-David, J. Leshem, Y. Sela, M. Dor and H. Mendelssohn for their precious information on mole rat predation, to S. Menzies for editorial assistance and to A. Beiles and E. Nevo for reading and commenting on the manuscript. Special thanks are extended to E. Tchernov for his advice and the opportunity to analyze the microfossil collection of Spalax in his laboratory. The research was supported by the 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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