Here’s a first for the pages of ZooBorns: A litter of Naked Mole Rats, born December 16 at Hungary’s Zoo Budapest.
Nearly hairless and covered in wrinkly pink skin, Naked Mole Rats are one of only two mammal species known to be eusocial – they live in highly organized societies similar to those of ants, termites, or bees. The only female in a colony to reproduce is known as the queen, and only a few males breed with her. The rest of the colony assumes roles as workers. They obtain food and maintain the complex system of underground tunnels in which the Naked Mole Rats live.
Native to eastern Africa, Naked Mole Rats feed underground on roots and tubers. A single tuber can sustain a colony for months. Scientists are studying these unique animals because they appear resistant to cancer, live extraordinarily long for a mammal their size – upwards of 30 years – and seem to repress aging. Recent discoveries of natural sugars and proteins produced by Naked Mole Rats, which could aid in human disease research, resulted in the Naked Mole Rat being named “Vertebrate of the Year” by the journal Science in 2013.