What is it about?

The study of lodgers of burrows of underground mammals was carried out using the method of hunting cylinders (cans). In the study, 29 different representatives from the following classes were identified in the courses of the greater mole-rat and European mole: Diplopoda, Chilopoda, Gastropoda, Insecta, Amphibia, and Mammalia. Among the vertebrates captured are Eurasian common shrew (Sorex araneus), Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus), bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus), moor frog (Rana arvalis), and common toad (Bufo bufo). Twenty-six different species have been identified among invertebrates. Many animals seek shelter in the burrows of underground mammals from enemies and adverse climatic factors for food or conditions for reproduction. In the central part of Russia, more species of commensals were found in European mole burrows (29) than in greater mole-rat burrows (21).

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Why is it important?

The digging activity of underground diggers as a medium-forming factor is the object of study for many researchers – ecologists, zoologists, soil scientists. Mammalian burrowing activity is one of the most widespread and large-scale phenomena in biogeocenoses. The role of the burrowing activity of vertebrates in the formation of the physical and chemical regime of soils is proved. First of all, the burrowing activity of mammals affects the hardness of the soil, its aeration, thermal regime, water permeability, and humidity. Changing the physical parameters of the soil causes a change in its chemical properties. Under the influence of digging activity from deeper soil horizons, chemical compounds are brought to the surface, more intensively involved in the biogenic cycle. As a result of the burrowing activity of animals, the upper humus horizon is mixed with the underlying parent rock, which contributes to the enrichment of soils with organic matter (Bulakhov 1975). Thus, the activity of diggers is essential not only for the physical and chemical regime of the soil sphere but also for the soil biota.


The results of our research on the European mole's commensals largely explain the work of our predecessors, who were engaged in its nutrition. Many commensals are, in fact, his fodder objects. In the diet of European moles of the Leningrad, Pskov, Novgorod regions, and the Karelian ASSR, representatives of more than 70 taxonomic units, were noted, the basis of food is earthworms (up to 85 % of the total volume) and insects (up to 11.6 %) (Rusakov 1965). Soil mollusks, millipedes, and other invertebrates were rare. Rodents and lizards in the diet are noted only in the spring.

Alexey Andreychev

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This page is a summary of: Commensals of underground mammals: European mole (Talpa europaea, Eulipotyphla, Talpidae) and the greater mole-rat (Spalax microphthalmus, Rodentia, Spalacidae), Biodiversitas Journal of Biological Diversity, October 2021, UNS Solo,
DOI: 10.13057/biodiv/d221059.
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