20 Naked Mole Rat Facts – A Rat or A Mole? Let’s Find Out!

by Sankalan Baidya
Naked Mole Rat Facts

In this article on Naked Mole Rat facts, we are going to learn about this unique creation of Mother Nature. This unusual animal has some really unique set of physical properties or traits that enable this [ugly-looking] creature to thrive in conditions that are not really cozy in any sense. And yes, this animal has a particular physical trait that we humans will forever envy! So, let’s start with our list of Naked Mole Rat facts.

Naked More Rat Facts: 1-5 | Classification, General Characteristics

1. Is Naked Mole Rat a mole or a rat? This is one question that keeps confusing people. The name has both mole and rat in it. So, how do we classify it? Here is the answer: It is NEITHER A MOLE, NOR IS IT A RAT. It is actually a rodent.

2. Naked Mole Rat is closely related to Blesmols (that are simply referred to as mole-rats). Blesmols are basically burrowing rodents belonging to family Bathyergidae.

3. The Naked Mole Rat, which is also a burrowing rodent has its very own family called Heterocephalidae. Here is a quick classification of the Naked Mole Rat:

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Rodentia
Family Heterocephalidae
Genus Heterocephalus*
Species H. glaber
Binomial Name Heterocephalus glaber

*Please note that the Naked Mole Rat is only species in world which is classified under Heterocephalus genus.

4. Where is Naked Mole Rat found? This creature is endemic to East Africa. It is found in places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya etc.

5. What are the general characteristics of Naked Mole Rat? Here, take a look at the table below:

Size Including the head and the body: 3 inches to 13 inches.
Tail Up to 3 inches and is similar to that of a rat.
Weight Up to 3.3 pounds (lbs)
Diet Herbivore.
Legs Short and thin – capable of moving both forward and backward at same speed.
Eyes Very small with very poor visual acuity.
External ears Not present.
Appearance Wrinkled skin, tubular body, grayish-pink or pink skin
Environment They live underground.

Naked Mole Rat Facts: 6-10 | Colony Life: Queen and Workers

6. Are Naked Mole Rats solitary animals? No, they are NOT. They actually live in colonies. Their colony size can be as small as 20 individuals and as big as up to 300 individuals.

7. They have a structured colony. Each colony has one dominant Naked Mole Rat. That dominant member is the Queen. The others are broken down into workers and soldiers.

8. The job of the Queen is to produce offspring. A Queen is not decided by birth. It is decided by a fight (which can end in death). Only the females fight and the one that becomes the winner gets to become the Queen of the clan.

9. The Queen Naked Mole Rat will copulate only and only with a selected few male members of the clan. Usually the clan or colony has fewer males than number of females.

10. When a female becomes the Queen, she stretches and increases her vertebral space in her backbone. This allows her to become longer and then bear offspring.

Naked Mole Rat Facts: 11-15 | Colony Life: Queen and Workers

11. Even after a female becomes a Queen, she needs to keep fighting to ensure that her position remains secure. She has to often keep fighting other females who aspire to become Queen.

12. The Queen has another job too. She goes out inspecting chambers and tunnels of the colony to see if everything is in order. Those who misbehave or tend to show some kind of coup are bitten by and pushed by her, reminding that she is in charge.

13. What do the worker Naked Mole Rats do? These workers are responsible for several things:

  • Digging tunnels.
  • Foraging for food.
  • Take care of pups of the Queen.
  • Alarming in case of threat.

14. The worker Naked Mole Rats build intricate tunnels with separate chamber for the Queen and there are separate chambers for storing food. They also create a separate toilet chamber where all members of the colony go and do their job. Of course, they don’t have a shower.

15. If any predator enters the colony’s tunnels (for example, a snake), the worker Naked Mole Rats will quickly raise alarms, notifying the soldier Naked Mole Rats. The soldiers then come defend.

Naked Mole Rat Facts: 16-20 | Colony Life: Soldiers, Food Habits

16. What do the soldier Naked Mole Rats do? The defending tactics used by the soldiers is quite unique. They will just climb on top of each other, creating a vertical column and display their large and sharp teeth. The predator gets to see only several gnashing teeth sets!

17. The attacks of the soldiers are synchronized and they repeatedly bite the predator with their teeth thrash away the predator(s).

18. What do the Naked Mole Rats eat? They are herbivores. They will usually feed on roots and tubers. They barely go above the ground but if they do, they are usually looking for seeds.

19. They work as a community. In case a worker finds a new tasty food source (root or tuber), the worker will chop off a piece with its teeth and go running to the other members and starts waving the food and starts chirping.

20. The other workers will then follow and bring the food back to the storage chambers piece by piece. One tuber can last as food source for the entire colony for several months and even more than a year.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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