Heterocephalus glaber

Range: sub-Saharan east Africa (including parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya)

Habitat: Burrow systems in arid areas

Conservation status: Least concern

Naked Mole Rat

  • • Small rodents belonging to the family Bathyergidae.
    • Native Africans call them sand puppies
    • They are not rats or moles. Porcupines, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are their closest relatives (has to do with the arrangement of their jaws and jaw muscles)
    • The naked and Damaraland mole rats are the only known eusocial mammals, behaving like social insects by living in a colony with a single breeding female and related, reproductively suppressed workers and soldiers.
    • Social colonies consist of about 80 individuals (occasionally up to 300).
    • Each colony has a strict social hierarchy: 1) a single queen; 2) her harem of 1-3 males with whom she chooses to breed; 3) soldiers, both male and female, who defend the colony against predators and foreign mole rats; and 4) workers, who maintain the burrow, find food, and care for the queen and her pups.
    • Reproduction: The breeding queen somehow suppresses the breeding of all the other females in the colony, although they can regain their fertility quickly if the breeding female is removed (and females will fight to the death to become the breeding female). The worker males are also suppressed, although they do produce some sperm. Researchers speculate that the queen engages in nose-to-nose shoving that causes stress and inhibits hormone release, thus preventing ovulation in females and lowering testosterone and sperm count in males.

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