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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber)

Naked Mole Rat
Heterocephalus glaber (Ruppell, 1842)

Range: East Africa
Habitat: Savannah
Diet: Roots, Tubers
Social Grouping: Colonial (20-300 members)
Reproduction: Breeding limited to usually one (sometimes more) queens, who produce all of the offspring in the colony. She only breeds with a few select males, so all members of the colony are very closely related.  Breed year round, average of five litters a year.  Gestation 70 days, average of 7 pups per litter.  Females mature in 7 months, males in 12 months.
Lifespan: 30 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  • Body length 14-17 centimeters long, weigh 30-80 grams.  Males and females are similar in size; the queen and breeding males are the largest members of the colony
  • Skin is brown or pink; young often possess dark spots, which fade with age.  Very little hair on the body; what is present is very short and very sensitive
  • The teeth, used for tunneling, protrude through their lips, allowing the naked mole rats to dig without getting a mouth full of soil
  • Although the eyes are well developed, naked mole rats are functionally blind - their brains have lost the ability to process what they see
  • Longest known lifespan of any rodent species
  • Store food in underground chambers; useful because their ability to forage is hampered during the rains, as they have difficulty moving through wet soil.
  • Primary predators are snakes, which can move easily through the tunnels
  • Cannot control their body temperatures internally, thermoregulate like reptiles - when they are cold, they bask, when they are hot, they retreat to the cooler parts of their burrows
  • Of considerable scientific interest, not only because of their unique social structure, but because of their resistance to cancer and their perceived immunity to pain

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