Myospalax myospalax (Laxmann, 1773), Russia.
OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Zokors.
Head and body length 5.9-10.6 in (150-270 mm); tail 1.1-3.7 in (29-96 mm). Stout, torpedo-shaped animals with powerful limbs and claws suitable for digging. Their eyes are very small and are often covered by the fur and there are no external ears, both adaptations for their fossorial lifestyle. The fur is soft, long, and lacks guard hairs. Color varies among different shades of brown and gray, with the underparts being slightly lighter than the upper parts. Individual hairs are often darker at the tips.
Found in forested and agricultural areas with soils suitable for their digging activities. They live almost entirely underground, digging long tunnels very rapidly. Their presence is easily determined by a characteristic mound pattern. Burrows are created in a similar manner and consist of nest chambers, food storage areas, a defecation chamber, and a series of tunnels. Burrows are generally at depths of 6.5 ft (2 m).
Active throughout the year and throughout the day. They sometimes emerge from their underground tunnels to forage on the surface at night. Despite their much-reduced eyes, they seem sensitive to light. They squeal when disturbed.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Eat mainly roots and grains. They burrow underground to gain access to roots.
Not much is known about reproduction. Females with 2-6 young have been captured in spring, but reproduction could occur at other times.
Several zokor species, including Siberian zokors, are not considered threatened, but at least four are considered Vulnerable by IUCN.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Can be agricultural pests and are actively hunted to reduce population sizes. ♦
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