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Ecological constraints drive social evolution in the African mole-rats

Faulkes, C. G., Bennett, N. C., Bruford, Michael William, O'Brien, H. P., Aguilar, G. H. and Jarvis, J. U. M. 1997. Ecological constraints drive social evolution in the African mole-rats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 264 (1388) , pp. 1619-1627.

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Abstract

The African mole-rats (family Bathyergidae) are subterranean hystricomorph rodents occurring in a variety of habitats and displaying levels of sociality which range from solitary to eusocial, making them a unique mammalian taxonomic group to test ecological influences on sociality. Here, we use an extensive DNA-based phylogeny and comparative analysis to investigate the relationship between ecology, sociality and evolution within the family. Mitochondrial cytochrome-b and 12s rRNA trees reveal that the solitary species are monophyletic when compared to the social species. The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is ancestral and divergent from the Damaraland mole-rat (Cryptomys damarensis), supporting previous findings that have suggested the multiple evolution of eusociality within the family. The Cryptomys genus is species-rich and contains taxa exhibiting different levels of sociality, which can be divided into two distinct clades. A total of seven independent comparisons were generated within the phylogeny, and three ecological variables were significantly correlated with social group size: geophyte density (p < 0.05), mean months per year of rainfall greater than 25 mm (p < 0.001), and the coefficient of rainfall variation (p = 0.001). These results support the food-aridity hypothesis for the evolution of highly social cooperative behaviour in the Bathyergidae, and are consistent with the current theoretical framework for skew theory.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Publisher: Royal Society
ISSN: 0962-8452
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:49
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/65167

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