Cape dune molerat

Bathyergus suillus

SUBFAMILY

Bathyerginae

TAXONOMY

Mus suillus (Schreber, 1782), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Kap-strandgraber.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The largest bathyergid has well-developed forefeet whose digits two, three, and four bear well-developed claws. Upper incisors are grooved. Cinnamon color, base of hairs black, white head spot sometimes present. There is sexual dimorphism: mean mass of males 31 oz (896 g), females 23.5 oz (670 g).

DISTRIBUTION

Endemic to South Africa, predominately in the coastal regions of the southwestern Cape.

HABITAT

Largely restricted to coastal sand dunes; favors grasslands. BEHAVIOR

Solitary; aggressively defends its burrow from conspecifics. Males have thick skin on underside of neck, presumably as protection during fighting for mates.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

About 60% of diet is of aboveground vegetation, the remainder is geophytes.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breed seasonally (July-October), up to two litters annually. Gestation length about 52 days, mean litter size 2.4 (range one to five); pups weaned and disperse when about two months old.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Important agricultural pests, they also damage roads, runways to airports, and chew through underground cables. ♦

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