Giant Mole Rat

Giant Mole rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus), also known as the giant root rat, plays a much more serious role in the ecology of the Afro alpine communities of Ethiopia. It is endemic to Ethiopia, where it is confined to high altitude shrub and grasslands in the Afro alpine habitat of the Bale Mountains (3000 – 4377 meter). Their present distribution may be only a fraction of their former range as a result of their specialization to montane habitats, which are shrinking, as well as to increased isolation between populations. Sixteen to twenty – nine centimeters long and weighing 160 – 600 grams, the burrowing activities of the giant mole rat have an important effect on Afro alpine ecology, soil movement and soil formation processes. The mole rat is fossorial (adapted to digging), living in discrete individual burrow systems. These tunnel systems have been observed to be more than 90 meters long, covering an area greater than 360 meters square. In the Bale Mountains, the giant mole rat also forms an important part of the diet of the Ethiopian wolf.   The mole rat spends, on average, an hour above ground during the day, primarily between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. They become vulnerable to wolves when they emerge to collect vegetation, which they gather indiscriminately from around their burrow entrance while their hindquarters remain below ground. Once finished browsing, they again retreat into their deep burrows. At night, they plug their burrow entrances with soil to help regulate burrow temperatures. The mole rat is most active during the day and basks in the warmth of the sun to regulate body temperatures. In combination, these behaviors make the giant mole rat well adapted to survive in the harsh Afro alpine climate.

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