Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Book of Heterocephalus

Heterocephalus glaber, The Naked Mole-Rat

Rodents, with their continuously growing front teeth, are the most successful and numerous order of mammal. The Naked Mole-Rat is just one of its many various forms. 
The Naked Mole-Rat is fur-less simply because it lives in burrows deep in the ground of Africa where the temperatures remain stable. These burrows are excavated using their strong incisors.  Their lifestyle makes their eyes practically useless, they interact with their surroundings using mainly touch (they are very sensitive to vibrations) and hearing. Their gestation period is only 70 to 80 days but can produce 10 to 27 pups. These herbivorous rodents measure about 3 inches (7cm) and weigh, on average,  1.75 ounces (50g).

It's not their burrowing or incredible fertility that makes them interesting, it's their social structure.

Naked Mole-Rats are eusocial, like bees, ants and termites. Being eusocial means living in a large colony with only one breeding female (the queen) and very few breeding males. Other members of the colony (whether they be male or female) are of the worker or warrior caste. They are the one of the two known mammal with this social structure (the other being the Damaraland Mole-Rat). 

With a life expectancy between 10 and 30, their life span is considerably longer than that of their other eusocial comrades and most other rodents. 

Even though this species is not widespread, it's population is doing well. Isn't that nice to hear?
Watch a video by Jeff the Zoo Guy (my dream job right there...sigh...)


Watch a clip from The Life of Mammals: The Chisellers narrated by David Attenborough (my hero) 
This 50 minute clip is all about rodents, the Naked Mole-Rat appears after 30mins.

The popularization of the Naked Mole-Rat

 Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

 Where have you seen Naked Mole-Rats?

 Take care!
"Naked Mole-Rat." Small Mammals. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. [On line] 18 Jan. 2011  
Maree, S. & Faulkes, C. (2008). Heterocephalus glaber. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [On line] on 18 Jan 2011.

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