Density and distribution of the greater mole rat (Spalax microphthalmus) on the northern border of the area in a region of European Russia

Alexey V. Andreychev, Alexandr S. Lapshin



There are few subterranean mammals in Russia. The aim of the paper is to study the distribution and abundance of greater mole rat in the local population. The characteristic of the local population of the greater mole rat (Spalax microphthalmus) on the northern border of the range with reference to geographical coordinates is given. Our research has been conducted in Republic of Mordovia (European Russia). The field studies were carried out in 2007-2019. The population density in Mordovia is from 2 to 6 individuals/ha. The number of greater mole rat is estimated at 190 individuals. There are 27 to 200 mounds per one hectare of registered area. The distance of the greater mole rat habitat in Mordovia is from 40 to 372 km from other populations of neighboring regions. It is revealed that animals in the region are confined to pastures and dacha areas. The population density of subterranean rodent populations, such as mole rats, is in equilibrium with the capacity of the environment in which they live. The results on the population density and the number of greater mole rats on the northern border of the species range indicate the oppression of the local population.


subterranean mammals; mound; relative abundance; rodent; Republic of Mordovia

Full Text:



Abrakhina I.B., Osipova V.B. & Tsarev G.N., 1993, Pozvonochnye zhivotnye Ul’yanovskoi oblasti (Vertebrates of the Ulyanovsk Oblast), Ul’yanovsk: 50-63. [in Russian].

Adams G.D., 1966, Populations and spatial distribution of pocket gophers (Geomys b. bursarius). Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Andersen D.C., 1987, Geomys bursarius burrowing patterns: influence of season and food patch structure. Ecology 68: 1306-1318.

Andreychev A.V., 2018, A new methodology for studying the activity of underground mammals. Biology Bulletin 45: 937-943.

Andreychev A.V., 2019, Daily and seasonal feeding activity of the greater mole-rat (Spalax microphtalmus, Rodentia, Spalacidae). Biology Bulletin 46: 1172-1181.

Andreychev A., 2020, Proportion faunal assemblage of rodents in geoecological districts of Mordovia, Russia. Biodiversitas 21(9): 3961-3968.

Andreychev A.V., Lapshin A. S. & Kuznetsov V. A., 2010, On the spread of the greater mole rat in the Republic of Mordovia. XXXVIII Ogaryov Readings. Publisher of the Mordovia State University: Saransk: 13-14. [in Russian].

Andreychev A., Kuznetsov V., Lapshin A. & Alpeev M., 2020, Activity of the Russian desman Desmana moschata (Talpidae, Insectivora) in its burrow. Therya 11(2): 161-167.

Astradamov V.I., Vechkanov V.S., Machinskii A.P. & Zadal’skii S.V., 1976, The blind mole rat in Mordovia and its helminthofauna, in Ekologicheskie issledovaniya nazemnykh I vodnykh zhivotnykh v Mordovii (Ecological Studies of Terrestrial and Aquatic Animals in Mordovia), Publisher of the Mordovia State University: Saransk, pp. 61-69. [in Russian].

Bakka S.V., 2014, Blind mole rat, in Krasnaya kniga Nizhegorodskoi oblasti (The Red Data Book of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast), vol. 1: Zhivotnye (Animals), 2nd ed. Nizhny Novgorod, pp. 65-67. [in Russian].

Benedix J.H., 1993, Area-restricted search by the plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius) in tallgrass prairie habitat. Behavioral Ecology 4(4): 318-324.

Broussard D.R., 1996, The relationships between population demographics of Geomys bursarius and the variability of its food base. M.S. thesis, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Connior M.B., 2011, Geomys bursarius (Rodentia: Geomyidae). Mammalian Species 43: 104-117.

Connior M.B. & Risch T.S., 2010, Home Range and Survival of the Ozark Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius ozarkensis) in Arkansas. The American Midland Naturalist 164(1): 80-90.

Connior M.B., Kershen A.A., Medlin R.E., Elrod D.E., Sasse D.B. & Risch T.S., 2010, Distribution and habitat affinities of an endemic pocket gopher. American Midland Naturalist 164: 217-229.

Davis W.B., Ramsey R.R. & Arendale J.M., 1938, Distribution of Pocket Gophers (Geomys Breviceps) in Relation to Soils. Journal of Mammalogy 19(4): 412-418.

Didorchuk M.V. & Kotyukov Yu.V., 2012, Data on the current distribution of the blind mole rat in the Ryazan oblast. Actual Problems of Modern Mammalogy, Novosibirsk, 12 pp. [in Russian].

Dimitriev A.V., Konovalenko A.V., Rakhmatullin M.M. & Sinichkin E.A., 2010, Blind mole rat. The Red Data Book of the Chuvash Republic, Cheboksary, 278 pp. [in Russian].

Dukel’skaya N.M., 1932, Biology of the greater mole rat and testing different methods to combat. Tr. Zashch. Rast. 4(2): 23-46. [in Russian].

Flint V.E., Chugunov Yu.D. & Smirin V.M., 1970, Mammals of the USSR. Mysl’, Moscow. [in Russian].

Gulyaevskaya N.S., 1954, Digging activity (Spalax micropthalmus Guld) and its landscape and agricultural significance, Extended Abstract. Cand. Sci. (Biol.) Dissertation, Moscow. [in Russian].

Il’in V.Yu., Bystrakova N.V., Dobrolyubov A.N., Ermakov O.A., Zolina N.F., et al., 2006, Synapsis of mammalian fauna of the Penza oblast. Izv. Penz. Gos. Pedagog. Univ. im. V.G. Belinskogo 1(5): 73-89. [in Russian].

Inouye R.S., Huntly N.J., Tilman D. & Tester J.R., 1987, Pocket gophers (Geomys bursarius), vegetation, and soil nitrogen along a successional sere in east central Minnesota. Oecologia 72: 178-184.

Lovy M., Skliba J., Hrouzkova E., Dvorakova V., Nevo E. & Sumbera R., 2015, Habitat and burrow system characteristics of the blind mole rat Spalax galili in an area of supposed sympatric speciation. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0133157.

Mohr C.O. & Mohr W.P., 1936, Abundance and digging rate of pocket gophers, Geomys bursarius. Ecology 17: 325-327.

Nevo E., Heth G. & Beiles A., 1982, Population structure and evolution in subterranean mole rats. Evolution 36(6): 1283-1289.

Ovchinnikova S.L., 1971, Distribution of the greater mole rat (Spalax microphthalmus Guld.) in the southeastern part of the Black Earth Center. Tr. Voronezh. Univ. 93: 80-83. [in Russian].

Pavlov A.N., Vasilenko V.S., Kolesnikov I.M., Myalkovskaya S.A. & Potapova E.A., 1963, On the modern distribution of the Riesen-Blindmaus Spalax giganteus in the north-eastern Ciscaucasia. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 42(5): 777-780. [in Russian].

Puzachenko A.Yu., 1993, Space pattern of the microgroupings in subterranean mole rat Spalax microphthalmus (Rodentia, Spalacidae) populations. Mammalia 57(4): 619-648.

Puzachenko A.Yu., 1999, Methodology for assessing the environmental status of representatives of the family of mole rats (Sapacidae, Rodentia) of mole rats. Rare species of mammals in Russia and neighboring countries. Moscow: 317-329. [in Russian].

Puzachenko A.Yu., 2011, Greater mole-rat, Biodiversity Conservation Center, [Accessed January 27, 2016].

Puzachenko A.Yu. & Vlasov A.A., 1993, Diggin activity of the mole rat Spalax microphthalmus (Rodentia, Spalacidae). Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 72(11): 91-103. [in Russian].

Puzachenko A.Yu. & Vlasov A.A., 2012, The dynamics of the population density of the greater mole rat (Spalax microphthalmus, Rodentia) in the “Streletskaya Steppe”. Regimes of Specially Protected Steppe Areas: Proc. Int. Sci.-Pract. Conf. Dedicated to the 130th Anniversary of Birthday of Professor V.V. Alekhin, Kursk: 161-168. [in Russian].

Quinn V.S., Tsai C.C. & Zollner P.A., 2010, Distribution of the Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) in the grassland physiographic regions of Indiana. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science 119(1): 87-94.

Rado R. & Terkel J., 1989, A radio-tracking system for subterranean rodents. Journal Wildlife Manag. 53(4): 946-949.

Savic I.R. & Nevo E., 1990, The Spalacidae: evolutionary history, speciation and population biology, [in:] E. Nevo, O.A. Reig (eds), Evolution of subterranean mammals at the organismal and molecular levels. Alan R. Liss, Inc., V, New York, 335: 129-153.

Savchenko G.A. & Ronkin V.I., 2006, The role of the original and introduced heterogeneity in the formation of the complexity of steppe ecosystems of northeastern Ukraine, Vestn. Khar’kov. Nats. Univ. im. V.N. Karazina 729: 185-192.

Smallwood K.S. & Morrison M.L., 1999, Spatial scaling of pocket gopher (Geomyidae) density. Southwestern Naturalist 44: 73-82.

Sumbera R., Burda H., Chitaukali W.N. & Kubova J., 2003, Silvery mole-rats (Heliophobius argenteocinereus, Bathyergidae) change their burrow architecture seasonally. Naturwissenschaften 90: 370-373.

Sumbera R., Skliba J., Elichova M., Chitaukali W.N. & Burda H., 2008, Natural history and burrow system architecture of the silvery mole-rat from Brachystegia woodland. Journal of Zoology 274: 77-84.

Tanner J.T., 1966, Effects of Population Density on Growth Rates of Animal Populations. Ecology 47(5): 733-745.

Topachevskii V.A., 1969, Spalacidae, Fauna of the USSR. Mammals, Leningrad: Nauka: 3(3). [in Russian].

Vlasov A.A. & Puzachenko A.Yu., 1993, Distribution of the greater mole rat (Spalax microphthalmus Guldenstaedt 1770, Rodentia, Spalacidae) burrow systems in the protection meadow steppe. Russian Journal of Ecology 4: 88-90. [in Russian].

Wang Q. & Fan N., 1987, Studies on the digging activities and exploration about the method of number estimation of plateau zokor. Acta Theriologica Sinica 7: 283- 290.

Williams L.R. & Cameron G.N., 1984, Demography of dispersal in attwater's pocket gopher (Geomys attwateri). Journal of Mammalogy 65(1): 67-75.

Yamashkin A.A., 1998, Physico-geographical conditions and landscapes of Mordovia. (Yamashkin, A.A., ed.). Publisher of Mordovia State University. Saransk, Russia, 156 pp.

Zhang Y., 2007, The Biology and Ecology of Plateau Zokors (Eospalax fontanierii), [in:] S. Begall, H. Burda, C.E. Schleich (eds), Subterranean Rodents. Springer, Berlin: Heidelberg.

Zhang Y., Fan N. & Wang Q., 1999, The effects of some environmental factors on population abundance of plateau zokor. Acta Biologica Plateau Sinica 14: 101-109.

Zhang Y., Zhang Z. & Liu J., 2003, Burrowing rodents as ecosystem engineers: the ecology and management of plateau zokors Myospalax fontanierii in alpine meadow ecosystems on the Tibetan Plateau. Mammal Review 33(3-4): 284-294.

Zhou W. & Dou F., 1990, Studies on activity and home range of plateau zokor. Acta Theriologica Sinica 10: 31-39.

Zhukov A.V., Kunakh O.N. & Konovalova T.M., 2011, The landscape aspect of the ecological niche of mole rats (Spalax micropthalmus Guldenstaedt 1770). Biological textbook of the Melitopol Sovereign Pedagogical University im. Bogdan Khmelnitsky 3: 13-27.

Zinnel K.C., 1992, Behavior of free-ranging pocket gophers. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Partnerzy platformy czasopism