Eusociality has evolved independently in two genera of bathyergid mole-rats — but occurs in no other subterranean mammal
- Cite this article as:
- Jarvis, J.U.M. & Bennett, N.C. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1993) 33: 253. doi:10.1007/BF02027122
Extensive field and laboratory studies show that Damaraland mole-rats, like naked mole-rats, have an extreme form of vertebrate sociality. Colonies usually contain 2 reproductives and up to 39 non-breeding siblings, 90% of whom live a socially-induced lifetime of sterility; they remain in the natal colony, forage for food, defend the colony and care for successive litters. Although there is heightened dispersal following good rainfall, the majority of adult non-reproductives remain in their natal colony and failure to disperse is not directly attributable to habitat saturation or unfavourable soil conditions. A major dispersal event follows the death of a reproductive. Differences in colony cohesion, ethology and the hormonal profiles of non-reproductive animals suggests that eusociality evolved along different pathways in these two phylogenetically divergent genera of the Bathyergidae.