Damaraland Mole-Rat

Damaraland Mole-Rat

Damara mole rat, Damaraland blesmol

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Fukomys damarensis
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
15-16 yrs
WEIGHT
100-280 g
LENGTH
14-20 cm

The Damara mole-rat is a burrowing rodent found in southern Africa. It has a cylindrical body with short, stout limbs, large feet, and a conical head. The animal doesn't have external ears, and its blue-colored eyes are tiny with thick eyelids. The incisor teeth are large and prominent, with flaps of skin behind them to prevent soil from falling into the throat while the mole-rat is using them to dig. The fur is short and thick, and varies from fawn to almost black, with shades of brown being most common. There is always a white patch on the top of the head, although its exact shape varies, and there may also be additional blotches of white fur elsewhere on the body. There are longer sensory hairs that project above the fur over much of the body and the facial whiskers are particularly long.

Distribution

Damara mole-rats are found across much of southern Africa, including Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They inhabit warm, semi-arid environments dominated by savannah scrubland or sandy grasslands. They are most commonly associated with red Kalahari psamments (sands) and sandy soils.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Damaraland mole-rats live in networks of tunnels, which they dig with their front teeth. These tunnels are 65 to 75 mm (2.6 to 3 in) in diameter and may stretch for up to 1 km (0.62 mi). They have no connection to the surface and as a result, the tunnels develop their own microclimate, containing warm, moist air, with low oxygen levels. The burrow system consists primarily of foraging tunnels, which the mole-rats dig in search of food; there are also storage chambers beneath the foraging tunnels. The foraging tunnels are typically only 5 to 25 cm (2 to 9.8 in) beneath the soil but are connected to a smaller number of deep tunnels that lead down to the storage chambers, latrines, and a central nest that may be as much as 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) underground. Each burrow system is inhabited by a single colony of mole-rats that can range from as little as 2 to as many as 40 members. The colony consists of a single breeding pair and their non-reproductive offspring. The non-reproductive members of the colony spend their time foraging and maintaining the tunnel system, in particular closing any breaches that may occur. Damaraland mole-rats are active primarily during the day and rarely leave their burrows. They are not very vocal, making only some birdlike chirps. If the breeding female dies, most surviving members of the colony disperse to new locations. Particularly large individuals may also leave the colony to establish a new burrow system. New colonies are established by unrelated males and females, which become the new breeding pair.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Damaraland mole-rats are herbivores and feed only on tubers, corms, and bulbs. They do not drink, obtaining all their water from their food, which is also an important source of minerals.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
PREGNANCY DURATION
78-92 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
28 days
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
pup, pinkie, kit

Damaraland mole-rats are monogamous and only the breeding pair within a colony is capable of reproduction. Non-reproductive individuals are able to reproduce if they establish a colony of their own. The breeding female initiates courtship by calling and drumming with her hind feet. The pair then chase each other in a right circle before mating. The gestation period lasts 78 to 92 days and females can produce up to 3 litters of 1 to 6 pups per year. The pups are born hairless, with closed eyes, and only weigh 8 or 9 grams. They are weaned after 28 days and reach adult size after around 14 months.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats to the Damaraland mole-rat at present.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Damaraland mole-rat is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Damaraland mole-rats aerate and turn the soil in their environment due to their extensive tunneling work and their tunnels help to supply water to deep-rooted trees.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Damaraland mole-rat is one of only two known eusocial mammals; the other one is a smaller, less hairy, Naked mole-rat. Eusocial animals engage in the following characteristics: cooperative brood care (including care of offspring from other individuals), overlapping generations within a colony of adults, and a division of labor into reproductive and non-reproductive groups within the colony.
  • Damaraland mole-rats can effectively metabolize minerals obtained from food without access to vitamin D, which they lack because they are normally never exposed to sunlight.
  • Damaraland mole-rats have very poor vision, although they may use the surfaces of their eyes for sensing air currents.
  • Damaraland mole-rats do most digging after rainfall since dry soil is too difficult to excavate. Because they live in arid environments, this means that Damaraland mole-rats can be extremely active over short periods; in such conditions, a colony is able to excavate three tons of soil over a two-week period.
  • Damaraland mole-rats are able to pull smaller plants underground by their roots, without having to leave their burrows and are able to eat leaves, stems, and other parts of the plant that would otherwise be inaccessible.

References

1. Damaraland Mole-Rat on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damaraland_mole-rat
2. Damaraland Mole-Rat on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/5753/22185003

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