The long-lived queen: Reproduction and longevity in female eusocial Damaraland mole-rats (Fukomys damarensis)

  • Christina M. Schmidt
  • Jennifer U.M. Jarvis
  • Nigel C. Bennett
Keywords: Fukomys damarensis, reproductive costs, sociality, longevity, trade-offs.


The inverse relationship between reproduction and lifespan is one of the main  concepts of life history theory. This association has been observed in most taxa, although exceptions have been found in which a breeding female outlives her  non-reproductive cohorts. This relationship is well known in social insects, and it has recently come to light that reproductive females of certain social mole-rat species also exhibit extended lifespans relative to non-breeders. We analysed mark–recapture data over 13 years in 12 colonies of Damaraland mole-rats  (Fukomys damarensis) to assess if colony queens lived longer than non-reproductive adult females. Queens were recaptured up to 8.5 years after initial capture (X = 6.2 years); significantly longer than  non-reproductive females (X = 1.3 years), suggesting that a colony queen lives longer than her non-reproductive subordinates. This difference may be attributed to both physiological and social factors which may relax reproductive costs in queens.

Key words: Fukomys damarensis, reproductive costs, sociality, longevity, trade-offs.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020