Bathyergus suillus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Bathyergidae

Scientific Name: Bathyergus suillus (Schreber, 1782)
Common Name(s):
English Cape Dune Mole Rat, Cape Dune Blesmol
Bathyergus africana (Lamarck, 1796)
Bathyergus maritimus (Gmelin, 1788)
Bathyergus suillus ssp. intermedius Roberts, 1926
Taxonomic Notes:

Contrasting with previous research, a recent study (Visser et al. 2014) revealed that Bathyergus suillus is paraphyletic with regards to its sister species (B. janetta). Resultantly, this study recommends a systematic revision of the genus Bathyergus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2017-01-18
Assessor(s): Maree, S., Jarvis, J., Bennett, N.C. & Visser, J.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Wilson, B., Palmer, G., MacFadyen, D., Avery, M., Child, M.F., Relton, C., Avenant, N., Baxter, R., Monadjem, A. & Taylor, P.

Although it has a limited distribution, the Cape Dune Mole-rat is listed as Least Concern because it is common within its range and survives successfully within environments modified by humans, such as agricultural areas. In some areas they are considered locally abundant and even a pest. There are no major threats to this species.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Endemic to South Africa, this species ranges along the coast of the Western Cape from Knysna to Lamberts Bay and Klawer. Additionally, this species is present in the Northern Cape near Groenrivier, having recorded from Rondawel (Monadjem et al. 2015), where it occurs sympatrically with B. janetta (Faulkes et al. 2004). Its range extends inland approximately 80 km from South Africa’s western coastline. Generally, this species occurs at altitudes below 300 m above sea level, and its range is discontinuous along South Africa’s west coast, fragmented by mountains and rivers (Visser et al. 2014).

Countries occurrence:
South Africa (Northern Cape Province, Western Cape)
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Visser et al. (2014) found three major lineages across the species’ distribution with the sister species, B. janetta, regarded as paraphyletic with respect to this species. These lineages pertain to the West Coast, Struisbaai and Sedgefield areas, evidently separated by the Hottentots Holland Mountains and the Breede River, which act as phylogeographic disruptors. Importantly, however, every studied population (10 in total) was genetically unique in both their mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. It therefore seems that populations greater than 30 km apart may be considered as subpopulations due to a lack of gene-flow between them. Additionally, Visser et al. (2014) also found populations to be demographically stable or even expanding, with limited evidence of inbreeding. Within grassland habitats, population densities of this species have been recorded to reach over 300/ha (J.U.M. Jarvis unpubl. data).

Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Cape Dune Mole-rats are subterranean and occur in loose sandy and loamy soils along South Africa’s south and west coast, and alluvial sandy soils in riverine habitats. This species is one of few mammals considered endemic to the Cape Floristic region of south-western Africa (Visser et al. 2014), and along with Georychus capensis, has a clear preference for Fynbos vegetation (Mugo et al. 1995). Cape Dune Mole-rats are most commonly associated with sandveld habitats (Bennett and Faulkes 2000), and adapt successfully to landscapes transformed by humans, such as wheat fields, other agricultural areas and road verges. This species is often regarded as a pest on sporting areas (golf courses, bowling greens and tennis courts), and on wheat farms, where their mounds cause damage to reaping machine blades. It also undermines roads and chews through cables and irrigation pipes.

Cape Dune Mole-rats are generally solitary with individual burrows. They are seasonal breeders and produce between one and six young per litter (Hart et al. 2006). They consume underground roots and bulbs, as well as grasses and green forbs from above ground (Davies and Jarvis 1986). Independent from water, they are able to meet moisture requirements from food. It has a generation lenght of two years.

Similar to other Mole-rats (Cryptomys hottentotus and Georychus capensis), the Cape Dune Mole-rat is an important eco-engineer and plays a role in modifying soil properties and increasing the humic content of the sands in which it occurs (Hagenah and Bennett 2013). Burrowing activities by mole-rats may also enhance infiltration and the water holding capacity of soil (Hagenah and Bennett 2013).

Generation Length (years):2

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Cape Dune Mole-rats are utilised local communities as an additional source of protein, where the meat is considered a delicacy (Skinner and Chimimba 2005). For example, De Graaff (1981) recorded that four or five were caught weekly by some families, this being their only source of protein apart from fish.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The main threat to this species is habitat destruction due to the expansion of and human settlements and intensive agricultural production (sensu Rouget et al. 2003). While intensive agricultural production may reduce available habitat they can exist in agricultural landscapes, sometimes in high numbers if the area remains unworked for a couple of years. For example, all animals sampled in Visser et al. (2014) study were from agricultural areas that displayed no inbreeding and had demographically stable populations. Additionally, they are commonly killed on roads while dispersing above ground. Males sometimes range longer distances than usual in search of a mate, and Mole-rats are also forced above ground when seasonal flooding takes place. In some parts of its range this species is classified as a pest, resulting in pest control procedures. Climate change is unlikely to have an impact on this species as geology and drainage evolution has a larger influence on its distribution than does climate.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species occurs within several protected areas in the Western Cape, including Table Mountain National Park, Cederberg Wilderness Area and De Hoop Nature Reserve. No interventions are necessary at present but protected area expansion to protect genetically divergent populations would benefit this species.

Recommendations for land managers and practitioners:
Population monitoring, including recordings of road kill incidents.

Research priorities: A taxonomic revision of the genus Bathyergus is necessary, given the findings of Visser et al. (2014); long-term monitoring of the population to assess the severity of putative threats; identification of core conservation areas for this species.

Encouraged citizen actions:
Report sightings on virtual museum platforms (for example, iSpot and MammalMAP), especially outside protected areas.

Citation: Maree, S., Jarvis, J., Bennett, N.C. & Visser, J. 2017. Bathyergus suillus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T2620A110017759. . Downloaded on 21 September 2017.
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