Functional histology of the skin in the subterranean African giant mole-rat: thermal windows are determined solely by pelage characteristics

  • Excavation of burrows is an extremely physically demanding activity producing a large amount of metabolic heat. Dissipation of its surplus is crucial to avoid the risk of overheating, but in subterranean mammals it is complicated due to the absence of notable body extremities and high humidity in their burrows. IR-thermography in a previous study on two species of African mole-rats revealed that body heat was dissipated mainly through the ventral body part, which is notably less furred. Here, we analyzed the dorsal and ventral skin morphology, to test if dermal characteristics could contribute to higher heat dissipation through the ventral body part. The thickness of the epidermis and dermis and the presence, extent and connectivity of fat tissue in the dermis were examined using routine histological methods, while vascular density was evaluated using fluorescent dye and confocal microscopy in the giant mole-rat Fukomys mechowii. As in other hitherto studied subterranean mammals, no subcutaneous adipose tissue was found. All examined skin characteristics were very similar for both dorsal and ventral regions: relative content of adipose tissue in the dermis (14.4 ± 3.7% dorsally and 11.0 ± 4.0% ventrally), connectivity of dermal fat (98.5 ± 2.8% and 95.5 ± 6.8%), vascular density (26.5 ± 3.3% and 22.7 ± 2.3%). Absence of large differences in measured characteristics between particular body regions indicates that the thermal windows are determined mainly by the pelage characteristics.

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Author:Lucie Pleštilová, Jan Okrouhlík, Hynek Burda, Hana Sehadová, Eva Maria ValeskyORCiDGND, Radim Šumbera
Parent Title (German):PeerJ
Publisher:PeerJ, Inc.
Place of publication:London [u.a.]
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2020/04/08
Date of first Publication:2020/04/08
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/05/11
Tag:Bathyergidae; Dermal fat; Fat layer; Heat dissipation; Histology; Mole-rat; Skin morphology; Subterranean; Thermoregulation; Vascularization
Page Number:17
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 59 Tiere (Zoologie) / 590 Tiere (Zoologie)
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0