We present the 1st detailed field study on the giant mole-rat (Cryptomys mechowi), a eusocial subterranean bathyergid rodent from mesic areas of subequatorial central Africa. In Copperbelt Province, Zambia, we found giant mole-rats in a variety of habitats including agricultural fields, bushland, marshes, and forests. Soil types varied in hardness and air content, and varied vertically and horizontally. Burrow systems of single colonies were 0.2–2.5 ha. The diameter of burrows was about 8 cm, and the maximum depth was about 200 cm. Nests were found at an average depth of 91 cm (n = 8). Further characteristics of nests, food and defecation chambers, diet, helminth parasites, and commensals are described. Colony size ranged from 3 to >20 with a sex ratio of 1:1.2 (n = 65) in favor of females, with 8% juveniles, 39% subadults, and 53% adults. A significant sexual dimorphism was found in the body mass (345 g ± 95 SD in males versus 252 ± 34 g in females). A defined breeding season was not apparent. Because C. mechowi occurs in a variety of habitats across a broad geographic range, generalizations based on the examination of selected study sites and consequent linking of behavioral ecology with habitat parameters should be done with caution.
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