Blesmols: Profile and Information


The blesmols are also called the mole-rats or the African mole-rats. These creatures are burrowing rodents that belong to the family called Bathyergidae.

The rodents called blesmols represent a unique evolution of a subterranean life among African rodents, much like the tuco-tucos in South America, the pocket gophers of North America, or the Spalacidae.

Scientific classification

  • Family: Bathyergidae
  • Scientific name: Bathyergidae
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Parvorder: Phiomorpha
  • Family: Bathyergidae


  • Naked mole-rat: 35 g
  • Common mole-rat: 79 g
  • Damara Mole-rat: 130 g,

Gestation period

  • Naked mole-rat: 70 days
  • Common mole-rat: 85 days,


  • Naked mole-rat: 13 cm
  • Cape dune mole-rat: 28 cm


The modern blesmols are strictly found in sub-Saharan Africa. Fossil forms of this rodent are also almost restricted exclusively to Africa, but some fossils of the Pleistocene species Cryptomys asiaticus were found in Israel.

There was also a report by Nowak (1999) that †Gypsorhychus was found in Mongolian fossil deposits.

Behavior of Blesmols

Blesmols live in elaborate burrow systems, and the different species that exist exhibit varying degrees of sociality.

Most Blesmols species are solitary, but there are two species, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) and the Damaraland blesmol (Fukomys damarensis) are considered to be the only eusocial mammals.

These species are wired by nature to have a single reproductively active female and male in a colony where the other animals remain sterile.

These animals prefer to live in loose, sandy soil and are usually associated with arid habitats. These rodents rarely have any reason to come to the surface as they spend their entire life underground.

When it comes to feeding, the Blesmols are plant eaters (herbivorous), and they primarily feed on roots, bulbs, and tubers. They are also able to pull some small plants underground by dragging their roots without needing to leave their tunnels.

This enables them to eat the stem, leaves, and other parts of the plant that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise.

Blesmols will have to burrow in search of food, and the large majority of their complex tunnels consist of foraging burrows surrounding a smaller number of storage areas, latrine chambers, and nests.

Most species of these rats only breed once or twice an entire year, although there are some who breed all year round.

They do not need to birth much young as they naturally have small litters of between two to five cubs.

This is likely because their environment is quite safe that they do not have to quickly replace their population as the other rodent species do. However, there are some species of mole rats that have much larger litters.

They may average up to twelve cubs like in the case of the naked mole-rat and may sometimes be larger.



The Bathyergidae specie are monophyletic, having all taxa tracing back to just one common ancestor.

Although there are a few controversies, the closest living cousins of the blesmols appear to be some other African hystricognaths that belong to the family Petromuridae (dassie rats) and Thryonomyidae (cane rats).

Together the three existing families, plus their fossil relatives, make up the infraorder Phiomorpha.

At present, there are 21 species of blesmols from 5 different genera that are accepted, but this number will likely increase. Just like other fossorial rodents like tuco-tucos, pocket gophers, and blind mole rats, blesmols seem to speciate rapidly.

They quickly become geographically isolated, leading to a range of chromosomal forms and take easy that are genetically distinct.

Some studies have recently suggested that the genus Bathyergus stands as the basal-most lineage, but many studies have suggested that the Naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus, possessed that spot.

More recent studies have placed that genus in a unique family, Heterocephalidae.

Below are all blesmol families

Family: Bathyergidae

Subfamily: Bathyerginae

  • Georychus – Cape Blesmol
  • Georychus capensis – Cape mole-rat


  • Cryptomys anomalus – no common name
  • Cryptomys hottentotus – Common mole-rat
  • Cryptomys holosericeus – no common name
  • Cryptomys nimrodi – Matabeleland mole-rat
  • Cryptomys natalensis – no common name


  • Fukomys anselli – Ansell’s mole-rat
  • Fukomys amatus – Zambian mole-rat
  • Fukomys bocagei – Bocage’s mole-rat
  • Fukomys darlingi – Mashona mole-rat
  • Fukomys foxi – Nigerian mole-rat
  • Fukomys damarensis – Damaraland mole-rat
  • Fukomys ilariae – Somali striped mole-rat
  • Fukomys mechowii – Mechow’s mole-rat
  • Fukomys kafuensis – Kafue mole-rat
  • Fukomys micklemi – Kataba mole-rat
  • Fukomys occlusus – no common name
  • Fukomys whytei – Malawian mole-rat
  • Fukomys ochraceocinereus – Ochre mole-rat
  • Fukomys zechi – Ghana mole-rat
  • Heliophobius argenteocinereus – Silvery mole-rat
  • Heliophobius – Silvery mole-rat
  • Bathyergus – Dune blesmols
  • Bathyergus Janetta – Namaqua dune mole-rat
  • Bathyergus Suillus – Cape dune mole-rat

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