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Digging in: What are tucos-tucos revealing about subterranean sociality?

rodents mammals sociality

Understanding the causes and consequences of variation in social organization is a fundamental goal of behavioral biology. Studies of subterranean rodents have played a prominent role in these analyses due to their marked diversity in social organization, with species ranging from solitary to eusocial. While the extreme social behavior of African mole-rats is now well known, other lineages of subterranean rodents remain poorly characterized, thereby hampering opportunities for comparative analyses across convergent examples of life in underground burrows. Using data drawn from ongoing field studies of tuco-tucos (Rodentia: Ctenomyidae), I describe our growing understanding of variation in social organization among members of this South American radiation and I identify several contrasts between tuco-tucos and African mole-rats, further study of which promises to generate new insights into the adaptive bases for variability in mammalian social organizations.

Dr Eileen Lacey
Professor of integrative biology at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, USA