Bathyergidae – Blesmols

Although rodents, blesmols live like insects in colonies of up to several dozen, which a Queen leads

The family contains twelve species in a total of five genera. They are found throughout Africa, ranging in size from approximately 80 grams to potentially 600 grams, mole rats exhibit a remarkable diversity in morphology and behavior adapted to their subterranean lifestyle. One of the most intriguing aspects of Bathyergids is their reproductive biology, wherein only the queen mole rat is capable of reproducing and giving birth to offspring, similar to certain insect species with a eusocial structure.

The subterranean existence of mole rats is a defining characteristic of their ecology, with these rodents spending nearly their entire lives underground in burrow systems that provide shelter, protection, and access to food resources. The absence of light in their underground habitat has led to the evolution of specialized sensory adaptations, with mole rats relying heavily on their sense of touch to navigate through their dark environment and locate food. Their short tails, though not visibly prominent, serve as tactile organs, aiding in sensory perception and communication within their social groups.

Despite their predominantly subterranean lifestyle, mole rats occasionally emerge from their burrows to forage for seeds and other plant materials, demonstrating a degree of flexibility in their foraging behaviors. This above-ground activity is often brief and opportunistic, with mole rats quickly retreating to the safety of their underground tunnels to avoid predation and maintain their physiological adaptations to the subterranean environment.

The complex social structure of mole rats is another fascinating aspect of their biology, with individuals forming cohesive family groups within their burrow systems. These social units, consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring, collaborate in tasks such as burrow construction, foraging, and predator defense, showcasing the cooperative behaviors that have evolved in response to the challenges of underground living.