Creature Feature: The Naked Mole Rat | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Creature Feature: The Naked Mole Rat

And to kick off our 2015 Creature Feature we have... the naked mole rat! Find out what makes this ugly little guy special and vote in our poll for the next crazy creature to be featured!

RufusSome believe this is the ugliest creature around, others believe it is the cutest. It all depends on whether you remember the Naked Mole Rat, Rufus, from the kid’s TV show Kim Possible, who lived in one of the protagonist’s pockets all day. However, this would not have been a very good habitat for the real Naked Mole Rat, who lives in East Africa buried under the sand and away from the harsh light of the sun.

They spend all their life digging tunnels, which can extend to up to 3 miles in length, with their incessantly growing incisors. Their mouth is adapted to this function as their lips close behind their teeth as a way of preventing sand from getting into the mouth. However, these creatures do stop digging when they finally find their food source – giant tubers developed in the root system of some desert plants. When the day’s labour is over the workers sleep in a bundle together in groups of 80 or more, partly due to the fact that unlike other mammals, they cannot regulate their body temperature. They only lack fur because the tunnels are so hot from being heated by the sun and so it is unnecessary. These social colony bundles are shared by the mother of everyone, the queen! She is twice as heavy as everyone else and is almost always pregnant. She lives 12 to 13 years, whereas the male breeder only lives 1 or 2 years and is replaced by a senior soldier. Some soldiers do not dig or breed, however, they stay in the bundle, saving their energy for emergencies, such as a predator attack.

naked mole ratThe Naked Mole Rat wouldn’t last a day in the open desert, but are surprisingly well adapted to subterranean life. Despite being named “naked” this mammal does have some hair; the sensory whiskers on the nose and tail help them navigate around the dark tunnels that they build and let them travel just as well backwards as they do forwards. Also, due to the other senses being heightened, this creature is virtually blind. All these specific adaptations to their environment allow the Naked Mole Rat to live for up to 31 years.

Recently, researchers at the University of Rochester, New York, found that this creature never gets cancer, a discovery that could be vital in the prevention and treatment of tumours in humans!

Let us know which of these crazy creatures you would like to know more about! You have 2 weeks to decide...

Which creature should we feature next?

  • Colugo Flying Lemur (50%, 2 Votes)
  • Gerenuk (25%, 1 Votes)
  • Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (25%, 1 Votes)
  • Blue Parrot Fish (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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Sci & Tech Editor. Biological Sciences student. Keenly interested in the subjects of plant sciences and genetics. (@Rachel_Taylor95)


1st February 2015 at 1:15 pm

Last Updated

1st February 2015 at 3:07 pm

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