Interesting Facts About Naked Mole-Rat

Interesting Facts About Naked Mole-Rat
Image Source:  "Nacktmull" by Roman Klementschitz, Wien - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

Common names: Sand Puppy or Desert Mole Rat

1. As their name suggests, naked mole-rats do not have hair covering their entire bodies. The only hairs that can be found are touch-sensitive hairs which they use for feeling their way through their tunnels.

2. Naked mole-rats have cylindrical bodies with short limbs and very loose skin, which helps them to turn in compact spaces.

3. The naked mole-rat is found in the African nations of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. It lives underground in the hard, arid soils of savannahs and grasslands near the equator.

4. It has pinkish-gray wrinkled skin. Not completely hairless, it has sensory whiskers on its face and on its tail because it moves both forwards and backwards throughout its tunnel system. There are hairs between its toes to allow its feet to be used as brooms to sweep soil.

5. The naked mole rat has 4 long, front teeth (2 top, 2 bottom) that are located outside the mouth. To keep from ingesting soil, hairy lips are located closely behind the teeth, and there are hairy skin folds at the sides of the mouth. It has small eyes and can barely see. It also has acute hearing, a well-developed sense of smell, and is very sensitive to vibrations in the ground and moving air currents.

6. The naked mole-rat is the only known mammal to be eusocial (lives in a colony in which only one female breeds and the majority of others are workers), similar to social insects.

7. There is only 1 breeding pair, while the other mole-rats belong to castes which are distinguished by size and tasks performed. The smaller sized working-caste mole-rats dig the foraging burrows and carry food and nesting material to communal nests. The nonworking caste (larger-sized) spend time with the breeding female. Their role is unclear, although it may be to defend the colony. The young are raised by the whole colony.

8. Unlike other rodents their size, naked mole-rats can live 15-20 years.

9. A queen naked mole-rat can give birth to as many as 23 pups at one time, although the average litter size is 8-10. Over her lifetime, a queen may produce more than 500 babies.

10. The highly wrinkled and loose skin of the naked mole-rat helps avoid abrasion as the animal moves and burrows through the hard soil.

11. A naked mole-rat’s teeth will grow 10 inches in one year! Therefore they need to constantly gnaw on things to keep their teeth maintained.

12. Naked mole-rats are very clean animals. They have special “toilet chambers” that are used by all the members of the colony and even have “dumps” where they will carry off unused or spoiled food.

13. Naked mole-rats require very little oxygen. Because their burrows are almost completely sealed off from the surface they have adapted to an environment that is very high in carbon dioxide.

14,. Naked mole-rats spend their lives in a totally dark, complex underground burrow system, constantly building new tunnels in search of food and avoiding predators. Working as a team, they are very efficient when excavating their tunnels. The workers line up nose-to-tail and operate like an assembly line. At the front, a “digger” mole-rat uses its teeth to break through the soil. The “sweepers” then use their feet and the fine hairs between their toes to sweep the soil backwards. At the rear, the “volcanoer” kicks the soil up onto the ground’s surface, creating a volcanic-shaped mole hill.

15. The nakd mole-rat is a rodent; its closest relatives are guinea pigs, porcupines, and chinchillas.

16. Naked mole-rats urinate and defecate only in the toilet chamber. When it becomes full, they dig a new one. If wastes are not kept in one area, disease might spread through the colony.

17. A naked mole-rat can run backward as fast as it goes forward.

18. A typical colony of about 80 animals can cover the area of about 20 football fields!

19. Naked mole-rat colonies are highly inbred. Their DNA markers are virtually identical.

20. Since naked mole-rats have thin skin, no sweat glands, no fat layer, and don’t seem to shiver, their body temperature changes with the temperature of their surroundings. Their burrow habitat stays between 82-89 degrees F all the time, so it is easy for them to stay at a comfortable body temperature.


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