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The Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber)

A Disney show called Kim Possible made these little guys out to be cute little guys. However, they look like death. But why is this mole rat devoid of fur, and how does it react as a result? Let's look at the science and find out!

Physical Description and Behavior

These little guys, despite their depictions in the cartoon mentioned earlier, are fairly small. They are only about 3-4 inches long, and only weigh a little over an ounce. They spend a lot of their time underground, digging burrows and living in them in groups of up to 80. Which may in some way explain why they are hairless, sporting a bright pink body.

They have a huge tooth on their face, which is used to help prevent dirt from getting into their mouths when they dig. In fact, their whole bodies are designed for their underground lifestyle. For instance, they have underdeveloped lungs, and even their hemoglobin is designed to hold a lot of oxygen when it is available. It can live up to 5 hours in an environment that is only 5% oxygen, which would kill most of us in a mere few minutes.

A few fascinating aspects of this rat is the fact that it has no pain receptors. They are also highly resistant to tumors, probably due to their ability to "overcrowd", which prevents their cells from dividing once they are bound. This might be one of the reasons for their high longevity for their size. For instance, these mole rats in captivity can live for up to 31 years, which is extremely long for a small rodent.

Habitat and Location

The IUCN Red List labels this small rat as Least Concern, listing that it has a stable population.

Its native population is in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Since they live underground in areas with minimal agriculture, they are not at risk for harm due to human activity.

Learn more about this guy by watching this video

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