|What is that? That freaky thing? Hey, it's a naked mole rat!
||[Jun. 9th, 2008|02:32 am]
I can't believe this isn't in the tags- I even checked the Latin name. As a matter of fact, I'm wearing asbestos right now because I'm pretty sure I missed it. But in case I didn't... I present to you the naked mole rat.
Attractive, no? This little creature lives in Africa. Why is it so WTF? Alphabetically or in order of importance, I ask?
1) It is neither a mole, nor a rat. Discuss. It is actually related more to chinchillas and raccoons.
2) They are eusocial. Which means they live in a colony like bees. Yet they are mammals. Tiny, ugly mammals.
2a) Yes, that means there is a queen, and she grows in length to accommodate the babies she constantly pumps out. If she dies, another naked mole rat female gets an influx of hormones to do the same thing.
3) (and kind of 2aII) Many naked mole rat colonies, especially ones in zoos, are made of virtual clones. Because the queen is usually impregnated by either 1-4 of her brothers or her sons, many colonies have a very limited number of gene differentiations. Sadly, they have not mutated into giant monsters and ravaged Tokyo or started shooting lasers out of their eyes. Yet.
4) They can run backwards as fast as they can run forwards. Considering they spend their lives underground in tunnels, that comes in handy.
5) They're practically blind- they can only tell light from dark. Light is not so good. (See- tunnel dwellers)
6) You know the old saying, "You'll eat a peck of dirt before you die?" NMR's use their giant buck teeth to dig tunnels. They mostly eat tubers they come across while digging tunnels, but also eat insects and roots.
7) Those tunnel systems can stretch for over two miles. Considering colonies are generally around 80 NMR's who are about 4" long, color me impressed.
8) Those tunnels are much like anthills- there is a toilet cave, a food storage cavern, and even a small 'drop hole' near the entrance of a tunnel to foil snakes and other predators.
9) Their lips seal behind their teeth so they don't actually get a mouthful of dirt (but I like the peck of dirt thing so I'm keeping it) and their ears and eyes can also seal shut so they can dig wihtout having to stop and gripe "Ow, you guys, hold up a sec, I got something in my tiny beady eye."
10) Yes, my icon is of my kid in a naked mole rat costume. And she hates Kim Possible. See, if you take a naked mole rat out of it's colony, it will die.
There's probably more reasons. These ugly little fuckers have always been one of my favorites (there's a colony at the Philadelphia Zoo that we have to pay our respects to every time we go) and as you can tell, my kid is a bit obsessed. Hope this has been informative, and if you're looking for some links, here's my favorite- a live cam of the NMR colony at the American National Zoo: