R for Rat
Naked Mole Rat
We have no clothes,
we have no hair,
and we don’t care.
Not a stitch.
To be honest, love,
we just can’t get
IN THE RAW,
In the absolute
And we’re gorgeous,
don’t you think?
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institute, creative commons license (202) 633-3055
I am very fond of naked mole rats. They live in semi-arid regions of eastern Africa in burrows.
They are pink, hairless and have revolting personal habits, such as rolling in their toilet chamber. Then they smell like all their relatives, and intruders are easier to spot. Because naked mole rats do tend to look rather similar to each other.
Their long, yellow teeth grow outside their lips; so they can gnaw roots and tubers they eat without too much soil going in their mouths.
And although they are naked everywhere else, they do have hair growing somewhere rather unusual. INSIDE their mouths. It hangs like a curtain and is also helpful at keeping soil from being swallowed.
They are unique as mammals in they live in a colony where only one female is allowed to breed. All the rest of the mole rats are divided into army or workers, just like bees.
Because only one of them is allowed to breed all the mole rats are related – and their DNA carries hardly any variation. They all have more red blood cells than normal to enable them to survive in their sealed, airless burrows.
And despite them all being related, and packed in all together, diseases, including cancer, have never been found in naked mole rats, even those kept in captivity.
So you see, besides being rather gorgeous, they are also extremely special.
All material except photo © Liz Brownlee
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