The allometric relationship between body mass and burrow cross-sectional area for burrowing animals holds across greater than six orders of magnitude variation in body mass, and includes species separated by > 500 million years of evolution from two phyla (Arthropoda and Chordata), seven classes (Arachnida, Insecta, Malacostraca, Osteichthyes, Amphibia, Reptilia, and Mammalia) and both terrestrial and marine habitats. Only birds, which construct relatively large burrows, and vermiform animals, which construct relatively narrow burrows, are separated from the remaining burrowing species. No difference is found between fossorial (burrowing animals that forage beneath the soil surface) and semi-fossorial (burrowing animals that forage terrestrially) mammals, suggesting that subterranean foragers do not modify burrow cross-sectional area to increase energy yields. However, solitary fossorial mammals do construct significantly larger nest chambers than semi-fossorial and colonial fossorial mammals. These large nest chambers probably assist in maintaining body temperature by providing a better thermally insulated microenvironment. This offsets the thermoregulatory problems faced by these animals, which are characterized by low, labile body temperatures and poor thermoregulatory ability. Colonial fossorial mammals, on the other hand, construct nest chambers that are the same relative size as those constructed by semi-fossorial mammals and probably maintain homeothermy by huddling with endothermic nest-mates.
© 2005 The Zoological Society of London.