Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 253–260 | Cite as

Eusociality has evolved independently in two genera of bathyergid mole-rats — but occurs in no other subterranean mammal

  • J. U. M. Jarvis
  • N. C. Bennett


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.

Key words

Mammalian-eusociality Mole-rats Cryptomys Heterocephalus Bathyergidoe 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. U. M. Jarvis
    • 1
  • N. C. Bennett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownRepublic of South Africa

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