The Naked Mole Rat

naked mole rat

To the people who know me, I’m considered a naked mole rat aficionado. I am simply fascinated by their biology, and I’m enthralled by their social structure. 

Naked mole rats are the only known eusocial mammal. That essentially means that they live in communities similar to ants and bees: they have one queen who gives birth to all the naked mole rats in the colony, there are worker mole rats who are responsible for building the complicated network of tunnels in which they live, there are even soldier mole rats who patrol the tunnels and protect the colony. As a collective they are remarkable; each member has a designated role, every chamber within their community has a specific function (for example there is a separate food chamber, sleeping chamber, and toilet chamber).

As individuals they are astounding – they are, quite simply, the superheroes of the animal kingdom. And it all comes down to one thing: their incredible biology! Naked mole rats can live up to 30 years, which is significantly longer than any other rodent. They have a lack of pain sensation in their skin. They maintain very low metabolic and respiratory rates. They are the only thermoconforming mammal, meaning that they can adopt the surrounding temperature as their own body temperature, thereby preventing the need for internal thermoregulation. Finally, these super creatures are resistant to cancer. It is this trait which has recently made naked mole rats so interesting to modern science. The potential for developing anti-cancer medications based on the naked mole rat’s resistance is great, and proves to be very promising.

Most people look at naked mole rats and see ugly, buck-toothed rodents. I, however, look at the humble naked mole rat and see it for the amazing, quirky creature that it is. Its impressive repertoire of, what I consider, superpowers enable it to live very successfully in hostile environments. And its evolved capabilities may even go so far as to help us humans find a new cure for cancer. It doesn’t get much more incredible than that!

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