Sweeping the house clean: burrow architecture and seasonal digging activity in the East African root rat from Tanzania


We investigated changes in burrow architecture and fractal dimension across seasons and between the sexes in the solitary East African root rat Tachyoryctes splendens over an entire calendar year. The basic burrow system comprised a main tunnel reticulating into foraging tunnels, a nest consisting of food store chamber, latrine and sleeping area, and a bolt hole. Main tunnel length was strongly affected by sex, and contrary to expectations, it was longer for females than for males (during both the dry and the wet seasons). The number and the length of foraging tunnels were affected by both sex and season, with females’ burrows having more foraging tunnels than males in both the dry and the wet seasons. Females also had burrows with higher fractal dimension than males, while fractal dimension increased with burrow length for both sexes. We suggest that unlike the solitary bathyergid mole-rats, male T. splendens do not construct larger burrows than females in the search for mates, but rather females have larger burrows with more foraging tunnels resulting from the increased need for provisioning of their young


Journal of Zoology, 2014; 293 (2014):271-280


Tachyoryctes splendens, Burrow architecture, Subterranean rodent, Mole-rat, Fractal dimension, Root rat.