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Sensory ecology in subterranean rodents

Subterranean rodents are deprived of most sensory cues available for their aboveground counterparts. Thus, the role of vision has been substituted by olfaction. Recent data have shown that subterranean rodents, namely African mole-rats and blind mole rats, are able to detect so-called “kairomones”, secondary metabolites released into the soil from underground storage organs of plants, their staple diet. This might be an important adaptation increasing the chance for successful underground foraging in these mammals.

We are looking for one bachelor and one master student to join our project exploring the role of olfaction in food detection in subterranean rodents. The bachelor thesis aims to explore at what distance blind mole rats are able to detect kairomones in the soil. The master thesis focuses on whether African mole-rats are able to distinguish among different types of food and, based on their food preferences, selectively dig in areas characterised by the occurrence of their preferred food. Experimental work for both theses will be conducted in our animal house specifically designed for subterranean rodents at the university. Students will learn how to (1) work with live animals, (2) plan the experiments and (3) evaluate own data.


RNDr. Matěj Lövy, Ph.D., Faculty of science, room B257, tel.: 38 777 2257,
Doc. Radim Šumbera, Ph.D., Faculty of science, room B263, tel.: 38 777 2240,

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