Five facts about the naked mole rat

This furless rodent is native to the scorching lands of east Africa and is one of only two mammals to live in multi-generational colonies. Despite consuming little food and water, it survives for decades.

 

They behave just like ants

Several generations of naked mole rats live together in a colony, just like ants and bees. A social unit can consist of as few as 20 and up to 300 individuals headed by a queen. As she breeds with a handful of mates, worker offspring dig burrows, gathering bulbs and roots for the entire colony to eat. Some of the naked mole rats act as soldiers providing protection for the queen.

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Their teeth constantly grow

To burrow effectively, naked mole rats use their long, strong, protruding incisors to create the series of tunnels and chambers that make up their colony’s home. Their teeth grow constantly, so the gnawing helps to file them down. They are located on the outside on the creature’s lips, so they can keep their mouths closed as they dig. This keeps the soil out of their mouths in the tunnels.

They eat their own faeces

It may sound rather gross, but think about it: if naked mole rats are digging four kilometres (2.5 miles) of tunnels for a typical colony and rarely come up to the surface, they need to relieve themselves underground. The best way to get rid of some of it is to scoff it down. The faeces help them digest roots and bulbs. They also roll in the waste to gather the smell, which helps them identify one another.

Food is gathered from below

If they are gathering plants, but not coming to the surface, how are they able to take them? From below, of course. They identify the roots of the plants and pull at them until they disappear from the surface. The mole rats understand that if they nibble at it, the plat will continue to grow and flourish above ground, providing them with food for a longer period of time.

Naked mole rats aren’t entirely naked

Although it doesn’t have any fur and looks like a little wrinkled sausage, the naked mole rat does have a small amount of hair. There are whiskers on its face and tail and tiny hairs between its toes. These help the critter to navigate around the dark underground tunnels it extensively burrows in the east-African soil. It very rarely emerges from below the ground, so its hairs and sense of smell are far more important than its sight.

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Naked mole rats huddle together underground

 

 

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