Naked Mole Rat

Also known as a sand puppy or a desert mole rat, the naked mole rat is a burrowing rodent that is native to East Africa. It is known as being one of 2 eusocial mammals that has highly unusual physical traits that allows it to thrive in harsh, underground environments such as having a very low metabolism and a lack of pain sensation.

The Naked Mole Rat is a truly special creature
The Naked Mole Rat is a truly special creature

Naked mole rates are usually about 8 to 10cm long (3 to 4 in.) and weigh a mere 30 to 35 grams (1.1 to 1.2 oz). Only Queen naked mole rats are larger, and can weigh over 50 grams. The largest naked mole rat ever found was about 80 grams.

These animals are rather unusual, as they are well adapted to their underground habitat. Their eyes are really small, and therefore they have a poor visual acuity. Despite the fact that their legs are short and thin, they can move underground quickly and easily regardless of whether they are going forwards or backwards. They have large protruding teeth which are used for digging, and their lips are sealed behind the teeth so that soil will not fill their mouths while they are digging. They have very little hair, and are have wrinkled yellow or pink skin.

They can stay alive in areas with limited oxygen availability in the tunnels that live in. This is because their lungs are very small, and its bloody has an affinity for oxygen which increases the oxygen efficiency uptake. It also does not really respire and has a metabolic rate for an animal that is 2/3rds of its size. When it is hungry for a long period of time such as during a drought, it can reduce its metabolic rate by 25%.

They have a complex social structure similar to ants or bees. There is dimorphism between the queen, her breeding males, and its workers. Workers are sterile smaller naked mole rats focus on gathering food and working to maintain the nest, while larger works are there to defend if they are attacked.

Naked mole rats feed on large tubers, that can weigh as much as 1000 times the weight of an average mole rat. They find these tubers during their digging, but they also eat their own faeces. A single tuber can provide a single colony with a long-term food source that can last for months or even for years! This is because they eat the inside, but leave the outside untouched. This allows the tuber to regenerate.

Not only are they smart, but they can live for an extraordinarily long time compared to other rodents of the same size. They can live up for 28 years, which actually makes it the longest living rodent. They are a wonder to Scientists, as they seem to have a high resistance rate to cancer as it has never been found in them.

Rufus from Kim Possible
Rufus from Kim Possible

In popular culture, it has been featured in a children’s cartoon called Kim Possible, where it is the pet and sidekick of one of the ‘heroes’ called Ron.


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