Bathyergus suillus (Cape dune mole-rat)

Cape dune blesmol [English]; Kaapse duinmol [Afrikaans]; Kap-Strandgräber [German]; fouisseur [French]

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Bathyergus suillus (Cape dune mole-rat)

Bathyergus suillus (Cape dune mole-rat), Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Cape Town, South Africa.  [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


The Cape Dune mole-rat is the largest completely subterranean mammal in Africa. The body is cylindrical covered in short thick fur, with short limbs and a tail. There is a stiff fringe of hair on the tail and on the outside edge of the hindfeet, this helps to control the soil while digging.  Adapted for digging, the eyes are small and there are no external ear pinnae. The nose is flat, with tough bare skin and valvular nostrils. One of the mole-rats most characteristic features are the large white protruding incisors. The lips close behind the grooved teeth, this stops the mole-rate from swallowing sand while digging or feeding. The feet have strong claws for digging.


Body length 250 – 350 mm; weight range 1 –2.5 kg

Distribution and habitat

Soft coastal sands of the Western Cape, especially coastal strandveld.

General behaviour

Dune mole rats are solitary and aggressively territorial, each animal maintaining its own burrow system that is spaced apart from its neighbour. The animals rarely venture above ground, but are often forced above ground during the rainy season when the water table rises.


They eat bulbs, tubers, leaves and stems of plants.

Predators, parasites and commensals

Their predators include snakes, eagles, jackals and Caracal.

Gestation period

93 - 94 days

Life span

12-15 years


Dune moles are economic pests. They undermine roads and runways and chew through subterranean cables and irrigation systems. They eat plants and their large mounds can cause damage to harvesting machinery.



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