Field evidence for colony size and aseasonality of breeding and in Ansell’s mole-rat, Fukomys anselli (Rodentia: Bathyergidae)06 Aug 2012
Ansell’s mole-rat, Fukomys anselli, is a cooperatively breeding bathyergid endemic to the Lusaka Province of Zambia. During a 12-month field study involving the capture of 33 colonies of mole-rats, the number of occupants, breeding females and sex ratio within colonies were recorded. While thirty of these social groups contained a single breeding queen, three were found to exhibit plural breeding among females, having two queens present simultaneously. Mean±S.E.M. colony size was 8.7±2.2 (range 6–16,n=33). The occurrence of plural breeding and small group size is consistent with the predictions of the aridity food distribution hypothesis for social species inhabiting mesic habitats. The sex ratio of the population was skewed towards females at 1.2:1. The mean mass of adult males was 63.0 ± 18.3 g (range 36.7–110.3, n=87) while that for adult females was 52.9±11.8 g (range 35.1–77.8, n=86). Pregnant and lactating females were found throughout the study period from February 2009 to February 2010, indicating an aseasonal pattern of breeding in this species. Autopsy of individuals (n = 288) from the 33 colonies revealed a total of 19 pregnant females. Nine of these were in the latter stages of pregnancy and mean litter size was determined as 2.7 pups (range 1–4). Collectively, these new data reveal that Fukomys anselli share many similarities in life history and reproductive traits with the phylogentically closely related giant Zambian mole-rat, Fukomys mechowii.