The giant mole-rat, Fukomys mechowii is a cooperatively breeding subterranean mole-rat exhibiting a reproductive division of labour in which usually one, or occasionally two, females are responsible for procreation. In a field study that involved complete excavation of 32 burrow systems, mean colony size was 9.9 individuals (range 7–16). Pregnant reproductive females were found throughout the study period (September 2005 until June 2006), supporting preliminary evidence that reproduction occurs throughout the year. Of the 32 colonies sampled, 10 of 14 in which the reproductive female could be identified as pregnant contained a single reproductive female, while four had two females breeding simultaneously (plural breeding). The population sex ratio was skewed towards females at 1:1.46. Autopsy of pregnant reproductive females (n = 18) revealed that the production of two (10/18 pregnancies) or three (7/18) offspring was the norm, with one case of four embryos being present. These new data increase our fragmentary knowledge of the natural history of this little-studied species.
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Vol. 43 • No. 2