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  • Writer's pictureDenishea Young

The Astonishing Coolness of The Naked Mole Rat

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

So remember that time I said the next article would have the word Naked in it a lot.

Get ready to have your mind BLOWN!!!

I was surfing the web as one does and decided to check out the newsfeed on As it usually contains information that one doesn’t find on the news sites such as CNN, BBC and NPR. What did I see that immediately snagged my attention but this image:

What is this creature?

Is it alive?

What is the story?

Naked Mole Rat’s have a language!


I must learn more!

Like a good peon of the internet I… clicked. It brought me to an article entitled “Naked mole-rats: bizarre rodents speak in dialects unique to their colony” by Matthew James Mason.

And so began my descent into the world of the Naked Mole Rat (from here on out NMR will stand for Naked Mole Rat).

First I learned that scientists had realized that NMRs have a language of sorts with different dialects. With this language they are able to determine who is friend and who is foe. This is important as enemy NMRs are attacked. No mercy or quarter given.

Yeah who knew NMRs were xenophobic. I thought only humans had that particular quirk. But turns out it’s actually pretty prevalent in nature.

Onto the language discovery. So not only does each colony have their own language but it’s the Queen who determines the dialect.

Say what….

Yeah the QUEEN!

NMRs have Queens and an eusocial organization which is "a colonial lifestyle with a strict division of labor culminating in the presence of a single breeding female" (Buffenstein, 2012, p 1056).

Like insects!!!!

Such as ants, termites, and bees just to name a few. Not only do they have Queens who determine the language but it is only the Queen who reproduces. The other NMRs fulfill other roles in the community as the male breeders, workers, babysitters, foragers, soldiers and dispersers (dispersomorphs) among others as needed (Buffenstein, 2012, p 1058).

So just in that one article I learned three surprising facts. First that the NMRs have a language that is determined by the Queen. Second NMRs have a Queen! Third NMRs not only have organization within their groups but their organization is regimented remarkably similarly to insects (eusocial). With all these amazing facts what else was there to discover.

I had to find out and so I did.



Down into the termite tunnel I tumbled.

I soon found out that NMRs are native to Eastern Africa, specifically “underground in the dry, arid regions of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya,” where they are in no danger of going extinct (Oregon, 2021).

This was welcome news as it seems more common now and days for animals to be closer to extinction than to thriving anywhere in the world. Not only are they thriving but apparently they are really smart. (Like the cultural passing of language was not a clue.) They are smart because of how they consume their main food resource. One of their main sources of food are succulent tubers. They eat only the inside of it but are careful to not eat all of it. Instead they leave just enough for the tuber to grow back and support the colony again. Not only do they leave enough for it to grow back but they also pack the part consumed with dirt to facilitate growth (Buffenstein, 2012, p 1058). What!!!

Did you just read that?

Let me type it again.

They not only find a food source that is able to support the colony but… they are smart enough to eat what they need and leave the rest alone so that it is able to regenerate and feed them in the future. And they speed up the recovery of the tubers through farming methodology.

Do you know what that means!!!!

They are thinking about the future. They are providing an environment that is conducive to their future survival of not just themselves but their offspring.


Do you realize the significance of this?

Any other animal would just eat it all or stash it away from others, looking at you squirrels.

Instead the NMR is thinking of not only their future but the future and continued health of their colony. I was just amazed. If they can do it why can’t we as humans and supposedly smarter species get our act together and do this for the common good (Climate Change anyone).

Okay on with the coolness of the NMR. Due to NMRs living underground, oxygen deprivation is undoubtedly a certainty at times. According to Guarino (2017) some scientists wanted to know how they were able to survive in an environment with little oxygen. Being scientists they did what scientists did and exposed some NMRs to an environment that had only 5% oxygen. At only 10% oxygen humans stop functioning and at 5% they die.

But can you guess who was going on with life as normal?

If you guessed the NMRs then you guessed right. The NMRs not only survived the 5% oxygenated environment but thrived in it with no signs of stress or indication of trouble. Instead it was the scientist who called the experiment over after a whooping 5 hrs. The scientist being scientist decided to do another experiment this time in an environment with no air. This time there was a change. The NMRs movements became sluggish and eventually stopped altogether. However their heartbeats were going strong. Even after being in an oxygen free environment for 18 minutes. There was however a limit to the marvel that is the NMR system. Unfortunately after 30 minutes three NMRs test subjects did die.

How did the NMRs survive an environment with no oxygen for 18 minutes you ask?

They did so by…. get this….

Switching the method of sugar consumption that their bodies use from glucose (the normal method used by animals and humans) to fructose.

Get it. Get it!

Okay I didn’t get the significance either. I was like yeah that’s great you switched some letters around and kept the ending. What’s so great about that?

Well my readers let me tell you.

Plants use fructose to transfer oxygen through the body.


Not animals. So not only does the NMR have a social structure like insects, but they are also able to switch sugar systems that it’s body uses to one that plants do to survive in oxygen free environments.

Did I forget to mention that they are also cold blooded. Yes cold blooded like snakes and lizards and other things with scales. Imma let that sit with you a moment. I'll wait...

NMRs are cold blooded but yet they are still mammals. I know crazy right. I thought I had read that wrong too. So I checked to make sure. Below is the list of things that mammals have in common:

  1. “Mammals have hair or fur

  2. are warm-blooded

  3. are born alive (not hatched from eggs)

  4. the young are fed milk produced by the mother’s mammary glands

  5. and they have a more complex brain than other animals” (Illinois, 2021)

Well according to the above list the NMR can’t possibly be a mammal as they have no hair or fur and are cold blooded. Yet they are and here is why:

  1. They actually do have specifically placed patches of hair; they are called tactical hair that scientists believe help the mole rats to navigate in their underground tunnels (Buffenstein, 2012, p 1057).

  2. They are not warm-blooded so I don’t know how they got by this one.

  3. They are indeed born alive

  4. The young are fed milk produced by the mother’s mammary glands (Keartes, 2014).

  5. If nothing else this article should demonstrate that these are not your average rodents.

There is a lot more about the NMRs that is cool such as their resistance to forming tumors that lead to cancer, their capability to live long lives (up to 30 years), their extremely high pain tolerance and much more.

However this blog post is already wayyyyyyy longer than I had planned it to be.

I hope someone made it this far and found out just how cool yet slightly scary NMRs can be.

I mean really humans shouldn’t be worried about The Planet of the Apes scenario but about The Emergence of the Naked Mole People....

But that will never happen....

Um...Yeah.... so....

If you would like to read more about NMRs check out my Bibliography below.

If you would like to see NMRs live in all their unashamed Naked glory click on the link below:

I am going to be making some changes to my posting schedule. In the meantime please enjoy my other writings on my Works page.

Also if you are in a need of a wholesome video check out this tortoise dancing when sprayed by water. I don't why but I love it!!!!


Bichell, R. E. (April 20, 2017). Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird [web article] Retrieved from

Bittel, J. (May 14, 2020). The mystery of the great naked mole-rat migration [web article]. Retrieved from

Braude, S., Holtze, S., Hildebrandt, T. & Koch, R. (February 10, 2020). Naked mole-rats do not disperse or deliver pups in correlation with moon phase [article]. Retrieved from

Buffenstein, R., Park, T., Hanes, M., & Artwohl, J. E. (2012). Naked Mole Rat. The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents, 1055–1074.

Gamillo, E. (February 4, 2021). Naked Mole Rats Speak in Dialects Unique to Their Colonies. [web article] Retrieved from

Guarino, B. (April 20, 2017). Naked mole-rats are now even weirder: Without oxygen, they live like plants [web article]. Retrieved from

Illinois Department of Natural Resources. (Accessed 1/31/2021). What Makes a Mammal a Mammal? [Teachers Guide]

Lambert, J. (January 28, 2021). Naked mole-rat colonies speak with unique dialects. [web article]. Retrieved from

Oregon Zoo. (Accessed 1/31/2021). Naked mole rat [website]. Retrieved from

Schulze-Makuch, D. (2019). The Naked Mole-Rat: An Unusual Organism with an Unexpected Latent Potential for Increased Intelligence?. Life (Basel, Switzerland), 9(3), 76.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. (Accessed January 31, 2021). Naked mole-rat. [website] Retrieved from

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