Seasonal changes in urinary odors and in responses to them by blind subterranean mole rats

Giora Heth, Eviatar Nevo, Josephine Todrank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Breeding and nonbreeding season male and female mole rats from two chromosomal species of the Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies were tested in a tunnel T-maze to assess their responses to urine collected from breeding- and nonbreeding season male and female conspecific and heterospecific donors. The results indicate that S. ehrenbergi mole rat urine contains species-, sex-, and season-specific chemosensory cues and that male and female mole rats change their responses to these chemosensory cues depending upon the season. During the nonbreeding season, mole rats avoid conspecific and heterospecific urine of both sexes. In contrast, during the breeding season, mole rats do not avoid conspecific urine and males do not avoid heterospecific urine. These changes in responses to the chemosensory cues in urine are adaptive to their seasonal life underground because they could help the animals avoid aggressive encounters during the nonbreeding season and facilitate their approaching potential mates and competitors during the breeding season. The results suggest that chemical communication could play a role in social encounters, reproduction, and species isolation in the S. ehrenbergi superspecies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-968
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank R. E. Johnstonf or valuablec ommentosn an earlier versiono f this manuscripTt.h is researchw as supportedin part by a grantt o G, Hethf romt heR esearchA uthorityo f HaifaU niversitya nd by a grantt o E. Nevo from the Israel DiscountB ank Chair of Evo-lutionaryB iologyand the Ancell TeicherF oundationfo r Genetics and Molecular Evolution establishedb y Florencea nd Theodore Baumritteorf New York.


  • Chemical communication
  • Chemosensory behavior
  • Mole rat
  • Odor seasonality
  • Spalax ehrenbergi
  • Subterranean mammals
  • Urinary odors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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