FunNature & AnimalFascinating Animals: The Naked Mole Rat

Fascinating Animals: The Naked Mole Rat

The naked mole rat ( Heterocephalus glaber ) was first described by the naturalist, explorer and geologist Eduard Rüppell in 1842 and for many years its taxonomic description was refuted, as they were considered newborns of a much larger species or mammals that had lost its fur as a result of illness.

Later collections and descriptions from the 1890s to 1957 focused on the unusual anatomy of this species and morphological adaptations to underground life. Later, in the late 1960s, researcher Jennifer Jarvis began studying these animals and was the first person to bring these hairless rodents to the laboratory. He noted that they were very sociable and seemed to work together to dig tunnels and find food. Later, in the mid-1970s, Richard Alexander, an evolutionary biologist whose research focused on the evolution of eusociality (a colonial lifestyle with a strict division of labor that culminates in the presence of a single reproductive female), described the ideal hypothetical eusocial mammal: the naked mole rat.

This species with an average weight of 35 grams and 8 to 10 centimeters long, has a unique reproductive strategy in which only the dominant queen reproduces , while other females in the colony help with the rearing of young, defense of the nest and the maintenance of the colony. This organization works very similarly to that of social insects, such as bees, which live in a hive ruled by a single queen, who is also the only reproductive female.


A body adapted for underground life

These animals have evolved to have physiological adaptations to live exclusively underground, hence they have a robust, cylindrical body with a strong skull, small or absent eyes (they are considered functionally blind), very small external ears, no fur and powerful. incisors. Its protruding teeth serve to excavate and its lips act as a shield or seal behind the teeth , to prevent the animal from eating dirt while excavating. While the rat is not blind, its eyes are small and have poor visual acuity. The legs of the naked mole rat are short and slender, but the rat can move back and forth just as easily.




Humans, cats, dogs, and even platypus are warm-blooded. Mammals are generally thermoregulatory, able to maintain body temperature despite external conditions. The naked mole rat is the only exception to the rule: they are thermoforming or cold-blooded animals. When a naked mole rat is too hot, it moves to a deeper, cooler part of its burrow. When it is too cold, the rat moves to a place warmed by the sun or huddles with its companions.

More curiosities

They can survive 18 minutes in an oxygen-free environment without suffering any harm and live in an atmosphere of 80% carbon dioxide and 20% oxygen. In this situation, your metabolism slows down and you use the anaerobic glycolysis of fructose to produce lactic acid to supply your cells with energy.

They are also practically immune to cancer; they do not develop tumors thanks to p16 , a special gene that blocks disordered cell growth.

They are not immortal, but they are quite long-lived for their size, as they can live for more than 25 years.

In Spain

As a curiosity, in August 2021 a litter of this strange animal that behaves like an insect was born in Spain, specifically in the Bioparc of Valencia. In this center they have approximately 100 individuals separated into two independent colonies. The litter that was born in summer was nine young.

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