I’m more than a mole. I’m more than a rat. I’m wrinkled and naked and blind as a bat.
Not Only Weird and Strange but Stinky! - the Naked Mole Rat
The following is a verbatim transcript from Mr. Heterocephalus Glaber who most people would call a naked mole rat. H.G. wants to set the record straight so I have promised to write this article precisely as he dictated.
“Ciao! In the interests of science and my own self-worth, I want to tell you the naked truth – that’s a joke, son – about me and my family. Yes, scientists have named us naked mole rats and we are one of 30 different species. But although we have skinny, rat-like tails and we live in underground burrows like moles, we are more closely related to porcupines, guinea pigs and chinchillas.
“And we are not entirely naked. It may be hard to see with the naked eye but we do have about 100 very fine hairs on our bodies that function somewhat like whiskers to help us feel our surroundings. We also have fine hair between our toes that helps to sweep soil behind us while tunneling.
Sharing is fine but this is ridiculous!
“We prefer areas with sandy soil and you can find us underground in the desert regions of East Africa in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Native Africans call us “sand puppies” and we prefer that you refer to us by that name in front of our youngsters. It’s very warm during the day in our burrows (average of 82 to 89 degrees F) and If it does get cold at night, we just cuddle together in a mole-rat pile and use each other's body heat to keep warm. Since we spend our lives underground, we do not need superfluous hair for sun protection.
This tastes a lot better the first time around. Read on and you'll see what I mean.
“Some people say we are bizarrely ugly and look like an overcooked, pink-gray, wrinkled sausage with buck teeth. Others think we look like a tiny, cigar-size, three-inch long walrus. But you should know that biologists are fascinated with our unique abilities. I’ll tell you more about this later.
“We are not totally blind as most people believe but after millions of years living in the dark, our eyes have shrunk so that we can hardly see. We do have tiny little eyes but they are located beneath our skin and fur. We often run through our tunnels with our eyes closed. Since we’re not looking where we are going, we can run just as fast backwards as forwards. Instead of sight, we rely on our sense of hearing, smell and touch with our sensitive hair to feel our way through underground burrows in total darkness. We are also very sensitive to vibrations in the ground that may warn of danger from predators.
I think my tooth is looth.
“We are herbivorous mammals and eating tough roots and tubers requires some very strong, very sharp teeth. Our front teeth also help us tunnel through dirt while we search for food. Like all rodents, our teeth continue to grow throughout our lifetime, but by gnawing on hard foods, we keep our teeth from growing too long. Here is why we are unique. We can move our front teeth independently, spreading them apart and moving them together, like a pair of chopsticks. Can you do that? Don’t think so. I have heard that some of my relatives at the San Diego Zoo are fed yams, carrots, corn, broccoli, and fruit, and their favorite food is a banana. What’s a banana?
I think dinner is this way. No, it's that way.
“We sand puppies are odd for another reason. We live in communities like those of many insects such as ants, bees, termites and wasps. Scientists call us ‘eusocial’ or truly social. Our insect-like colonies have one dominant, ruthless queen mole rat – she’s in charge of the whole kit and caboodle. She is also the only female to breed and bear young. She chooses one to three elite males to breed with and all the other members of the same family work together to raise our young and maintain the colony. An average colony consists of 75 mole rats but can range in size from 20 to 300. Our entire underground area may be as large as six football fields.
“Worker animals dig the burrows in which we live using their prominent teeth and snouts. Their large, sharp teeth make ideal digging tools. These four front teeth, two on the top and two on the bottom, are actually located outside their mouth. To keep from swallowing unwanted dirt, their lips close behind their teeth. They also gather the roots and bulbs we eat. Other worker rats tend to the queen and her babies. If a snake or other predator enters our tunnels the worker mole rats alert the soldier mole rats, both male and female. Just like a well-trained army unit, the soldiers run to defend the colony with their large, sharp teeth.
60 babies a year! Where do I go to resign?
Unique Big Mama
“Our queen is not born into her position – she must earn it. She is larger and longer than all the other mole rats and her major responsibility is to breed and have pups. Females will fight, even to the death, for the right to be queen. Once the queen is established, a remarkable physical change takes place. The queen actually grows in length by increasing the space between the vertebrae of her backbone. Her new elongated body enables her to carry large litters during her pregnancy and still fit through the narrow tunnels of the burrow. A typical litter is 12 pups but can be as large as 27. Gestation is 10 to 11 weeks so queens may have 4 of 5 litters each year.
Her position as queen is never secure and she must continue to fight off other females if she wants to stay in charge. The queen often inspects the tunnels and chambers and controls her colony by biting and pushing the other mole rats to remind them she is the big mama. Workers dig all day to bring her food so she can devote her time to reproduction and the care of her pups. Within a few weeks, the pups begin to explore the tunnels, and in a few months they take their place as part of the workforce. By one year of age, they are fully grown.
I'm staying here. It's messy out there.
Unique Food Source
“It’s true. I have to admit it. We mole rats eat our own doo-doo. But there is a reason. Our diet consists of roots and tubers which are very difficult to digest. So our stomachs and intestines contain microscopic organisms to aid our digestion. But in order to maximize the amount of the nutrients from our food, we must re-ingest our feces. Think of it like getting 2 Whoppers for the price of one. (Sorry, BK).
“But there’s more! Not only do we eat our own doo-doo, we also roll our bodies in it! Why? Because we have nearly lost the use of sight, so in order to identify the members of our colony vs. an intruding colony, we all roll around on the floor of our toilet chamber!. So everyone smells stinky, but familiar and identical.
“Researchers have found that we sand puppies live nine times longer (up to 30 years) than mice of similar size. In addition to our extraordinarily long lifespan, we stay in good health and show a remarkable resistance to pain, cancer and heart attacks. We don’t show the usual deterioration of aging such as menopause or decline in brain function. A leading aging expert declares, ‘They (naked mole rats) demonstrate a healthy longevity that all of us (humans) would like to emulate.’
“So don’t turn up your noses at our lifestyle or choice of foodstuffs. We may hold the clues to successful aging in your species!”
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011. All rights reserved.
B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." This is a serious book about job search which readers say is enlightening but also fun to read.
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drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on December 20, 2015:
I apologize, Scribenet. for taking so long to acknowledge your kind comment. Happy Holidays.
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on August 03, 2013:
Hey...my pleasure! These are so very worth the visit! :)
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on August 03, 2013:
You make an extremely valid point, Scribenet. Feeding this unusual creature would make less than a dent in your budget.
BTW, thanks for the Hub-hopping you have been doing. You are much appreciated, y'know.
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on August 01, 2013:
This is one pet I do not want to have, even though he would be easy on the feeding budget!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on November 16, 2012:
Nice to meet you, innerspin. It's true that naked mole rates (excuse me, sand puppies) are not the most attractive creatures, but they are among the most interesting in habit and longevity. Today they inhabit African deserts. Who knows? Perhaps tomorrow, the world. BTW, H.G. sends his regards.
Kim Kennedy from uk on November 16, 2012:
Naked mole rats are among a teeny number of animals I find disgusting, so well done on your hub, which kept me reading. Hard to credit they can live so long. At the rate they breed, I'm surprised they haven't taken over the world by now.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on January 06, 2012:
Hi, Alicia. I especially enjoy your enjoying this hub and finding it fascinating since you also enjoy writing about fascinating animals. Which I enjoy reading about.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 05, 2012:
Fascinating facts about a very weird animal, drbj! Thank you for yet another very enjoyable hub.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 25, 2011:
How nice to meet you, mabmiles. Thank you for finding and loving this article. HG also thanks you for the 'cute' and is delighted you are happy. Way to go. :)
mabmiles on October 25, 2011:
I love your article, also the cute rat ^^ I am happy.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on April 17, 2011:
Wesman, I'm delighted that you have become more interested in strange and weird fauna and if any of my ten "Weird Animals" hubs have given you that impetus, then I'm happy to take the credit.
Will be following your writings.
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on April 17, 2011:
Now this is the kind of thing that I've really become interested in here lately.
I didn't realize that I could so enjoy writing hubs about the local fauna, but I do.
I'm discovering that fauna need not be "local" for me to enjoy writing about such either.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on December 28, 2010:
Yes, amillar, the naked mole rat is indeed queer and more strange than many other species, but still fascinating in its own fecal-oriented way.
'Thank you for finding me,' says H.G. Me, too, say I.
amillar from Scotland, UK on December 27, 2010:
Wow! weird indeed. In Yorkshire (England), they have a saying, 'There's nowt queerer than folk'; I’m not so sure now. Using his teeth like chopsticks to eat his own doo-doos - well, why not cut out the middleman, that’s what I say. I saw a program on telly once, where gorillas were recycling their doo-doos, but it’s probably healthier than ingesting pesticide.
That's a neat format - 1st person naked mole rat.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on November 07, 2010:
The naked mole rat, AC, is definitely unique and bizarre to those of us who are not also naked mole rats.
All the weird traits - running backwards, teeth outside their mouths, huddling together for warmth, the "queen's" elongated spine - contribute to their survival.
They are definitely not the run-of-the-mill mole. I'm delighted you found them and thank you for the appreciative comments. You're appreciated, too.
ACSutliff on November 05, 2010:
I laughed at the naked mole rat pile. Funny stuff. The idea of running backwards and wobbly teeth is just too bizarre. And your writing made it so easy to visualize the strange little guys running amok underground. How do they eat with those crazy teeth, outside their mouths? That's so weird! The most amazing part is the elongated spine just from becoming queen mole. It just doesn't seem possible.
This was really the best strange animal hub I have read. Nice style, and great details about the animal. What a weirdo!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 23, 2010:
Thank you kids-toy-box. What a wonderful suggestion. I had thought of doing a hub like that including the ten weird animals I have written about so far but just never got around to it. Thank you for reminding me. I will do one soon whether its called hubpedia or Capstone.
kids-toy-box on October 23, 2010:
My mistake..I was told earlier in the day that is would be called a Capstone Hub...not hubpedia as I mentioned.
kids-toy-box on October 23, 2010:
Thanks for the tips drjb:) I think you ought to do hub called weird and wonderful animals which lists all of your exsting hubs on the topic..it could be our hubpedia on weird and wonderful animals:)
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 22, 2010:
That's a very unique comment, kids. "The mole rats look a little incomplete." That is a really spot-on description. Thanks.
Delighted to see you have visited the blobfish as well. Don't forget to take a look at the dung beetle and the axolotl and he anglerfish, too. They are also unique, weird and very fascinating.
kids-toy-box on October 22, 2010:
Hi Drjb..don't know where you find em but I now know more weird and wonderful creatures thanks to your hubs...I was amazed by the Blobfish you reported on...still think its not completely ugly though the naked mole rats do look a little incomplete...still fascinting though.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 15, 2010:
Naked mole rats are also being studied by scientists because of their longevity and resistance to aging. Wonder if it's the rolling in poo that's a factor.
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 15, 2010:
Hi, susie. You own white furry rats as pets? Now I understand your preoccupation with the wood rat that you wrote a hub about. Yes, naked mole rats are cute but they live in burrows underground so they might not make ideal house pets. The San Diego Zoo has an exhibit of the cute critters living in translucent plastic burrows so visitors can see exactly what their environment looks like.
They hold a fascination for me, too, because of their appearance and their unique habits. Thanks for stopping by.
Sweetsusieg from Michigan on October 15, 2010:
Ok, I want one. Well maybe not cause the rolling in the poo is icky... My Mini-pin does that in the horse poo across the street. super ick. But they really are cute. I have 3 rats, but they all have white fur and are awesome. I wouldn't mind getting a naked rat tho. I should re-phrase that, they have a face that only a mother could love. Nah.... I like'em. Thanks!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 12, 2010:
Your hub name is most appropriate, nettraveller. Yes, you are absolutely correct. There are two species of mole rats with fur that I am aware of: the Damaraland mole rat and the Palestine mole rat. The former is a larger and hairier cousin to the naked mole rat who lives in colonies of up to 40 other furry rats in Africa but the group is dominated by a single breeding pair.
The latter is also a furry mole rat in Palestine which is a solitary animal and finds its "soul mate" only when necessary to mate.
I chose to write only about the naked mole rat because of its communal lifestyle and unique breeding habits. And because I think they are cute. However, I respect your opinion that furry is cuter. All in the eye of the beholder, no?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write a mini hub. :)
nettraveller from USA on October 12, 2010:
Likewise, drbj. I just learned that there is a furry variety of mole rat too. At least according to this source: http://www.livescience.com/animals/060405_lazy_rat... It's my bias, but I do find the furry ones cuter than the naked ones. How about a hub on furry mole rats?
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 11, 2010:
Hi, nettraveller, nice to meet you. Yes, the beautiful critters - they are kinda cute - in the second photo are mole rats or sand puppies. And no, they are not wearing fur coats. Their skin is varying shades of gray and tan but they are practically hairless which is why they cuddle together in their burrow at night.
nettraveller from USA on October 11, 2010:
The critters on the second picture are very hairy. Are those also mole rats, and where did they get their fur coats?
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on October 07, 2010:
Millions of naked kids all over the country googling. No, wait, I read that wrong. You said millions of kids all over the country googling naked mole rats. Yes, that's a potential possibility.
Which favorite cartoon character were you referring to, katie, m'luv? It's true - the naked mole rat is far from beautiful and muy stinky but cute when they are babies. See photo with lil HG and his looth tooth.
Katie McMurray from Ohio on October 07, 2010:
I imagine millions of kids all over this country in classrooms googling naked mole rat and finding your hub. You do know there's a naked mole rat as a pet to a very favorite cartoon character right? They sure are ugly and stink to... whew gags...
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on September 25, 2010:
Thank you, BK, Your "up" rating is most appreciated as is your visit and your kind comments. I had a lot of fun putting this hub together and I love you for loving it.
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on September 24, 2010:
Thanks for sharing another hub of beautiful creatures. I just love your hubs! Thanks for the photos and the education.
Rated up. Yay!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on May 11, 2010:
Hi, bonnebartron - how nice to meet you.
Thanks for the way nice comment. Yes, these lil critters would never win any beauty contests but their way of life is fascinating. Thanks for the visit.
bonnebartron from never one place for too long on May 11, 2010:
creepy little critters but way enjoyable blog!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on May 08, 2010:
Hi, wrenfrost, thanks for the visit. When I first started researching H.G. and his remarkable relatives, I thought the description of their strange lifestyle just couldn't be true.
But the more I learned the more I realized, no one could make this stuff up. Fascinating and funny creatures. Thanks for the thumbs up.
wrenfrost56 from U.K. on May 08, 2010:
Another interesting hub and I agree with nicomp, I really like the approach of the mole as a first person. Funny too, thumbs up. :)
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on February 04, 2010:
Yes, finn, they are cute. If you ever get to the San Diego Zoo in California, you may be able to watch them as they scurry through the transparent plastic burrows that have built for them there. Fascinating to watch. Better than the Discovery channel on TV.
finn on February 02, 2010:
they are so cute!!!
drbj and sherry (author) from south Florida on December 31, 2009:
That comment coming from you, a master, Dirt Puppy, is high praise indeed. Thank you.
nicomp really from Ohio, USA on December 30, 2009:
A naked mole rat in the First Person. Genius.
"Dirt Puppy". :)