Reproductive behavior of the blind mole-rat (Spalax ehrenbergi) in a seminatural burrow system

Irit Gazit*, Joseph Terkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The blind mole-rat (Spalax ehrenbergi) is a fossorial mammal that is solitary and highly aggressive in nature. The consequent difficulties of maintaining this species in captivity have hindered attempts to gain insight into its behavior and reproductive biology. This article describes an innovative artificial tunnel system and management protocol that facilitated our study of the reproductive behavior of the blind mole-rat in captivity. The study employed a naturalistic approach that allowed the animals to establish separate territories in a seminatural tunnel system and to become familiar with each other over a period of months. This approach contrasts with previous unsuccessful attempts in which mole-rats were introduced without a period of acclimation to each other or to the experimental set-up. The results reveal that both the length of acquaintance between a pair of mole-rats and their own control of the timing of encounters are the most significant factors in reducing aggression and stress. Courtship in blind mole-rats is a lengthy process during which the animals gradually become accustomed to one another, which leads to a reduction of aggression and the initiation of positive 'contact movements,' eventually enabling copulation to occur. Minimal disturbance by the researcher and initiation of encounters by the mole-rats themselves appear to be the factors that led to a successful mating, pregnancy, and, 34 days later, to the female giving birth and rearing the pups in captivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-577
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000


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