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Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Naked Mole Rat

The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a burrowing rodent native to parts of East Africa. These rodents live in communities very similar to insect societies (such as certain bee species). Several dozen rats live together in colonies led by one dominant female (the queen) which is the only naked mole-rat female to breed and bear young, whereas the rest of the members of the colony function as workers. 

Colonies comprise 70 to 80 individuals that inhabit elaborate tunnel systems. The tunnel systems built by naked mole-rats can stretch up to two or three miles in cumulative length. New tunnels are dug regularly for roots, bulbs, tubers, and other underground plant parts. 

The naked mole-rat is not truly naked but has pale, sparse hairs over its wrinkled pinkish grey skin. They rely on these sensitive hairs to feel their way through their underground burrows. As in other mole-rats, the large protruding teeth are for digging and eating, and the eyes and ears are minute. The tail is rounded and the limbs strong, with 5 thick-clawed toes, for digging. The naked mole-rat is also of interest due to its extraordinarily long-lived for a rodent of its size (about 8-10cm in length excluding tail length) and holds the record for the longest living rodent (up to 28 years).

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