Burrow architecture of the Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis) from South Africa

Published in: African Zoology
Volume 51, issue 1, 2016, pages: 29–36
DOI: 10.1080/15627020.2015.1128355
Author(s): Hannah G ThomasDepartment of Zoology, South Africa, Daniel SwanepoelDepartment of Zoology, South Africa, Nigel C BennettDepartment of Zoology, South Africa


The burrow architecture (length, internal dimensions, fractal dimension of tunnel systems, number of nesting chambers and surface mounds) was investigated in the Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis). A total of 31 animals were caught from five different colonies and their burrow systems were excavated in their entirety. The mean and SD colony size was 6 ± 3.3, with a range of 2–10 mole-rats. The sex ratio tended to be male biased 1.21:1. Males had a body mass of 80.5 ± 33.8 g, but were not significantly different to those of females, which had a mean body mass of 83.4 ± 24.9 g. The burrow system of the Damaraland mole-rats follows the same general architectural plan as recorded for other species of mole-rat with either one or two more centrally based, deeper, more permanent burrows that often connect to a nest area, which is used for resting and rearing offspring. The burrow systems contained several more superficial secondary tunnels at a shallower depth. The secondary tunnels accounted for up to 80% of the total burrow system. The mean length of the burrow system was 130 m and covered an area of 1 403 m2. The mean number of secondary branches in a burrow system was 10. The mean fractal dimension was 1.15, which implies the mole-rats do not explore their surrounding environment particularly efficiently when compared with that of other mole-rat species, but this may relate to the size of the main food resource, the Eland bean (Elephantorrhiza elephantina), which is randomly distributed and fed on in situ. Our study showed that colony size influences the size and complexity of the burrow system, with larger colonies having a longer burrow system covering a greater area with more secondary tunnels than that of smaller colonies.

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