Individual odor similarities within colonies and across species of Cryptomys mole rats

Giora Heth, Josephine Todrank, Hynek Burda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied similarities and differences in the qualities of individual odors across colonies and species of African eusocial mole rats using habituation techniques. Giant mole rats (Cryptomys mechowi) treated anogenital odors of 2 conspecifics from 1 colony as similar to each other and different from the odor of a conspecific from another colony, providing evidence for kinship odors. Subjects also discriminated between the subtle differences in the individual odors of familiar colony members. In another set of tests, mole rats from 3 species (C. mechowi, C. anselli, and C. kafuensis) treated anogenital odors of genetically closer heterospecifics as more similar to odors of conspecifics than to odors of less closely related heterospecifics. Thus, odor similarities paralleled genetic similarities as determined by the analysis of allozymic and karyotypic distances. The results demonstrate that similarities in individual odors covary with genetic similarities within colonies and across species. These similarities could provide a basis for different types of social recognition based on self-referent matching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-575
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cryptomys
  • Eusocial mole rats
  • Kinship odors
  • Species odors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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