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Benefits of cooperation in captive Damaraland mole rats

Cite this dataset

Houslay, Thomas; Vullioud, Philippe; Zöttl, Markus; Clutton-Brock, Tim (2020). Benefits of cooperation in captive Damaraland mole rats [Dataset]. Dryad.


Although the social mole rats are commonly classified as eusocial breeders on the grounds that groups include a single breeding female (the ‘queen’) and a number of non-breeding individuals (‘helpers’) of both sexes, alloparental care is not highly developed in these species and there is no direct evidence that the presence or number of non-breeders is associated with reductions in the workload of the ‘queen’. An alternative interpretation of mole rat groups is that the social mole rats are cooperative foragers rather than cooperative or eusocial breeders. Here, in captive colonies of Damaraland mole rats (Fukomys damarensis), we provide the first evidence that increases in the number of nonbreeding subordinates in mole rat groups are associated with reductions in the workload of ‘queens’ and with increases in their fecundity.


Behavioural data was collected using instantaneous scan sampling over 12h observation sessions.

Full information is provided in the methods of the published paper.

Data files include:

BehEco_GroupSize_analysis.R  ---  R script for reproducing analyses.

cumulative_work.csv  ---  total work done by helpers in scan sessions

gest_weights.csv  ---  weight gain over gestation by breeding females

ind_behav.csv  ---  individual-level behaviour within scan sessions

litter_details.csv  ---  details on each litter

mv_behav.csv  ---  data for multivariate model (breeding female behaviour, cumulative helper behaviour, gestational weight gain)

Usage notes

R script for reproducing analyses within the paper is provided.

Note that to protect data collected as part of a long-term study, we have anonymised identifiers within each CSV file (so these will not match across data sets). However, the models should produce the same output as that shown in our results.


European Research Council, Award: 294494

European Research Council, Award: 742808

International Human Frontier Science Program Organization, Award: RGP0051/2017