The inverse relationship between reproduction and
lifespan is one of the main concepts of life history
theory. This association has been observed in most
taxa, although exceptions have been found in which
a breeding female outlives her non-reproductive
cohorts. This relationship is well known in social
insects, and it has recently come to light that reproductive
females of certain social mole-rat species also
exhibit extended lifespans relative to non-breeders.
We analysed mark–recapture data over 13 years in
12 colonies of Damaraland mole-rats (Fukomys
damarensis) to assess if colony queens lived longer
than non-reproductive adult females. Queens were
recaptured up to 8.5 years after initial capture (X =
6.2 years); significantly longer than non-reproductive
females (X = 1.3 years), suggesting that a colony
queen lives longer than her non-reproductive subordinates.
This difference may be attributed to both
physiological and social factors which may relax
reproductive costs in queens.