Habitat

They occur in a range of habitats, but not in dense forests. Their distribution is usually associated with the occurrence of geophytes (plants with underground storage organs). The solitary genera (Bathyergus, Georychus, and Heliophobius) tend to be restricted to more mesic areas, whereas the social genera (Heterocephalus and some species of Cryptomys) can also oc-

A group of naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber). (Photo by Gregory G. Dimijian, M.D./Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

cur in arid, semidesert habitats. Soil types range from soft sands (Bathyergus) to soils that become extremely hard when dry (Heterocephalus). Mole-rats live in a burrow system consisting of a network of superficial foraging tunnels, a deeper nest complex with a toilet area, and, often, a food store. Burrows are sealed from the surface, except when disposing of excavated soil on the surface, and, consequently, the molerats live in a subterranean micro-habitat that is buffered from the extremes in temperature and humidity. The burrows also offer considerable protection against predators, including snakes, birds of prey, and small carnivores.

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