Giant mole-rat

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For the giant mole rat of Ethiopia, see Big-headed mole-rat.
Giant mole-rat
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Spalacidae
Genus: Spalax
Species: S. giganteus
Binomial name
Spalax giganteus
Nehring, 1898 [2]

The giant mole-rat or Russian mole-rat (Spalax giganteus) is a species of rodent in the family Spalacidae found in a limited area of Kazakhstan and southern Russia.[2] It feeds on roots and tubers and lives underground in a burrow that it digs with its teeth. The IUCN has assessed it as being "Vulnerable".

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The giant mole-rat is native to the North Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Chechnya and southern Kalmykia located between the northern ends of the Caspian and Black Seas. It is restricted to a range of less than 50,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) and its distribution within that area is quite patchy. It lives underground in burrows in damp sandy soils in semidesert areas, in river valleys, on plains, in shrubby or reedy areas and in disturbed and cultivated soils.[1]


The giant mole-rat is active all year round. It lives a largely subterranean existence in the burrow that it digs and is believed to be monogamous. Breeding activities usually occur in December and January and females produce litters of two to three young.[1]

Besides using its incisor teeth for gnawing its food of roots and tubers, the giant mole-rat uses them to dig burrows.[3] The teeth grow continually and need to be ground down to keep them sharp and functional. This is achieved by grinding the upper and lower teeth together by raising, lowering and protruding the jaw in a cyclical movement.[3]


Within its range, the giant mole-rat is thought to have an actual occupancy area of less than 2,000 square kilometres (770 sq mi). It is thought to be near extinction in Chechnya where civil war has interfered with its habitat. It also suffers elsewhere from its habitat being degraded by overgrazing, ploughing, irrigation and increasing soil salinity. In Dagestan it is estimated that there may be about 10,000 individuals but this is uncertain and its numbers seem to be decreasing. For these reasons, the IUCN lists it as "Vulnerable" in its Red List of Threatened Species.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Tsytsulina, K.; Formozov, N.; Sheftel, B. (2008). "Spalax giganteus". IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  2. ^ a b Musser, G. G.; Carleton, M. D. (2005). "Superfamily Muroidea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 919. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ a b Neveu, P.; Gasc, J. P. (2009). "A cinefluorographical study of incisor sharpening in Spalax giganteus Nehring, 1898 (Rodentia, Mammalia)". Mammalia 63 (4): 505–518. doi:10.1515/mamm.1999.63.4.505.