Individual recognition in the Damaraland mole-rat, Cryptomys damarensis (Rodentia: Bathyergidae)
Conspecific recognition was investigated in the eusocial and subterranean Damaraland mole-rat Cryptomys damarensis. This species out-breeds and is xenophobic. Differences in the frequency of agonistic behaviours between male-male pairs were used as an indication of recognition. Focal males were tested with familiar, unfamiliar, and foreign conspecifics. Males directed significantly more aggression towards unfamiliar colony mates and foreign conspecifics than towards familiar colony mates. This happened even though both focal and test animals retained contact with their natal colonies and, therefore, any group cue. Furthermore, when male-male pairs were returned to their natal colonies they continued directing aggression towards each other but not towards the rest of the colony. These results suggest that the Damaraland mole-rat uses individually distinct cues rather than kin-specific cues based on genetic relatedness.