Mole rats (Spalax ehrenbergi) select bypass burrowing strategies in accordance with obstacle size

Tali Kimchi, Joseph Terkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mole rats inhabit extensive individual tunnel systems. Since the energetic cost of burrowing far exceeds that of surface locomotion, excellent orientation ability is crucial. Here we examined whether mole rats can bypass an obstacle (ditch) intersecting an existing tunnel in order to rejoin the two tunnel sections. The mole rats dug two bypass types, depending on the size of the obstacle confronting them: a bypass around the small ditches, parallel and close to the ditch walls; or a bypass beneath the floor of the large ditches. These results demonstrate that the mole rat has the ability to avoid obstacles by digging accurate and energy-conserving bypass tunnels. In order to utilize such a capacity, the mole rat must possess both the means to evaluate the size of the obstacle as well as the ability to perceive its exact position relative to the original tunnel that it will rejoin. Possible mechanisms of orientation that could explain such ability are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-39
Number of pages4
JournalDie Naturwissenschaften
Volume90
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003

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