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Naked Mole Rat

Naked Mole Rat

Naked Mole Rat Range Map (Africa)
Naked Mole Rat Range Map (Africa)

A Naked Mole Rat eating
Latin Name Heterocephalus glaber
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location East Africa
Colour Pink/Yellowish
Length 8 - 9 cm (3.25 - 3.5 inches)
Tail 3 - 4.5 cm (1.25 - 1.75 inches)
Weight 30 - 80 g (1.06 - 2.82 oz)
Life Expectancy 13 - 18 Yrs (Approx.)

Main Characteristics

Naked Mole Rats are burrowing rodents that have a unique set of characteristics that enable them to thrive in a harsh underground environment.

They have a body length between 8 and 9 cms (3.25 - 3.5 inches), a tail length between 3 and 4.5 cms (1.25 - 1.75 inches) and they weigh between 30 and 80 g (1.06 - 2.82 oz).

They have a cylindrical shaped body and small limbs that are suited for burrow living. They have tiny eyes that can only detect light and dark, very small ears and they can move as quickly backwards as they can forwards.

Their skin is almost hairless, pink and wrinkled and it lacks a neurotransmitter called Substance P which is responsible for mammals feeling pain, hence Naked Mole Rats can cut or scrape themselves and not feel anything.

They have large protruding teeth which they use for digging and their lips close behind their teeth to prevent soil from entering their mouth. Because of the wear on their teeth they constantly have to regenerate, hence they grow for the lifetime of the individual.

Naked Mole Rats are unique amongst mammals as they are almost cold blooded and they are unable to regulate their own body temperature, therefore they require an environment that has a specific constant temperature in order to survive.

They also have small lungs, a low respiratory rate, a low metabolic rate and their blood has a strong affinity for oxygen which enables them to survive in tunnels that have a limited availability of oxygen.


Naked Mole Rats are found in the arid areas of East Africa. They live in colonies of 75 - 80 individuals, although it is not unknown for up to 300 to live in one colony. They have a complex social structure where only one female (the queen) and 1 - 3 males reproduce, while the rest of the colony function as colony defenders and workers.

They live in a complex system of burrows that cumulatively can be 3 - 4.5 Kms (2 - 3 miles) in length. They form head to tail chains to dig tunnels and gather their food.


Naked Mole Rats are radicivores which means they feed on tubers and roots. The colony will feed on part of a tuber then block off the tunnel and allow the tuber to regenerate, thus providing themselves with a constant food supply.


Only 1 female, known as the queen, and 1 - 3 males reproduce and the relationship between them will last for many years. A behaviour called reproductive suppression is believed to be the reason why the other females do not reproduce, which means that their infertility is only temporary rather than genetic. The queens are very hostile towards other females acting like queens and when a queen dies there is often a violent struggle between females to take her place.

Gestation last for approximately 66 - 74 days and 2 - 5 pups are born, although it is not uncommon for there to be more than 20 pups in a litter. Only the breeding female suckles the young and most will grow to become defenders or workers in the colony.


The main predators of Naked Mole Rats are snakes.


There are no subspecies of the Naked Mole Rat.

Interesting Facts

Naked Mole Rats are also known as:
Sand Puppy
Desert Mole Rat

The eusocial structure where there is one queen and related, reproductively suppressed workers is very rare among mammals. In fact, the Damaraland Mole Rat is the only other known eusocial mammal.

Similar Animals

Damaraland Mole Rat
Cape Dune Mole Rat
Silvery Mole Rat


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