Naked mole-rat Definition | Characteristics & Facts

Naked mole-rat

Naked mole-rat

Naked mole-rat Definition

The naked mole-rat, scientifically known as Heterocephalus glaber, is a small, burrowing mammal that belongs to the rodent family. It is native to parts of East Africa, primarily found in regions like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Here are some defining characteristics and facts about naked mole-rats:

Naked mole-rat General Characteristics & Facts

Scientific Name

The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) belongs to the family Bathyergidae.

Physical Appearance

Naked mole-rats are small rodents with unique physical characteristics. They have wrinkled, hairless skin, hence their name “naked” mole-rat. They have a cylindrical body shape, small eyes, and large incisors. Lack fur and have pinkish or yellowish-brown skin that is sensitive to touch.

Size and Weight

Naked mole-rats are relatively small animals, measuring about 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) in length. They typically weigh between 1 to 1.5 ounces (28 to 42 grams).Habitat: They are found in subterranean environments, particularly in arid regions of East Africa, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. They inhabit complex tunnel systems, known as burrows, which they dig in sandy or loamy soils.

Social Structure

Naked mole-rats are highly social creatures that live in colonies consisting of a queen, breeding males, and non-breeding individuals called workers. The queen is the only reproducing female in the colony, and she dominates the others. The workers have specific roles, such as digging tunnels, gathering food, and defending the colony.

Eusocial Behavior

Naked mole-rats exhibit eusocial behavior, similar to that of ants and bees. This means they have a caste system where individuals specialize in different tasks and work together for the benefit of the colony. This behavior is rare among mammals.


Naked mole-rats have an exceptionally long lifespan for their size. They have 30 years of life spam.


Naked mole-rats are herbivores and primarily feed on the roots, tubers, and bulbs of plants. They are capable of surviving on very low oxygen levels, as their underground burrows lack proper ventilation.

Resistance to Cancer

Naked mole-rats have a remarkable resistance to cancer. Their cells have a unique mechanism that prevents the uncontrolled growth and replication of cells, reducing their risk of developing tumors.


Naked mole-rats communicate using a variety of methods. They emit high-pitched squeaks, chirps, and other vocalizations. They also use tactile communication by touching and biting each other, which helps maintain their social structure and hierarchy.

Adaptations to Underground Life

Naked mole-rats have several adaptations that enable them to thrive in their underground habitat. They have low metabolic rates, which helps conserve energy in environments with limited food resources. Their teeth are specialized for digging, and they possess large, powerful front teeth for excavating tunnels.

Unique Reproductive Biology

In naked mole-rat colonies, only the queen reproduces. The queen mates with one or a few breeding males, and the other members of the colony are sterile. The queen is capable of producing offspring throughout her life.

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Physical Characteristics of Naked mole-rat

  1. Size: Naked mole-rats are relatively small mammals. They typically measure around 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) in length, excluding their tails. The average weight of an adult naked mole-rat is approximately 1 to 2 ounces (28 to 57 grams).
  2. Skin: As their name suggests, naked mole-rats have hairless, wrinkled skin. The skin appears pinkish or yellowish in color, and it lacks the typical protective fur or hair found in most mammals. Their lack of hair allows them to navigate the narrow tunnels of their underground burrows more easily.
  3. Shape: Naked mole-rats have a unique body shape.  Flattened head and cylindrical body. Their bodies are elongated, and they have short, stubby limbs. Their legs and feet are adapted for digging, with strong claws used for excavating tunnels.
  4. Eyes: Naked mole-rats have small, almost completely hidden eyes. Their eyes are covered with a layer of skin, which protects them from dirt and debris while digging in the underground tunnels. Their eyesight is relatively poor, and they rely more on other senses, such as touch and smell, to navigate their environment.
  5. Ears: Similar to their eyes, naked mole-rats have small external ears that are not very visible. While their hearing is not highly developed, they can detect low-frequency sounds and vibrations, which helps them communicate within their underground colonies.
  6. Teeth: Naked mole-rats possess large, prominent incisors in the front of their mouths. Their teeth are specialized for gnawing and chewing through tough plant material, such as roots and tubers. The incisors continue to grow throughout their lives, helping them cope with the constant wear caused by their digging and feeding habits.
  7. Tail: Naked mole-rats have a short, hairless tail that is typically less than an inch long. The tail is not prehensile and is used for balance and communication rather than grasping objects.

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Scientific Classification of Naked mole-rat

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Mamm

Order: Rodentia (Rodents)

Family: Bathyergidae (Bathyergid mole-rats)

Genus: Heterocephalus

Species: Heterocephalus

Key Locations of Naked mole-rat

  1. Kenya
  2. Ethiopia
  3. Somalia

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Naked mole-rat FAQs

What does Naked mole-rat Eat?

 Naked mole-rats primarily feed on underground plant structures, such as roots, bulbs, tubers, and corms.

What is a naked mole rat?

Naked mole-rats, as their name suggests, are pink, nearly hairless subterranean rodents.

Do mole rats have rat tails?

Yes, they have skinny, rat-like tails. Yet naked mole-rats are more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas, and guinea pigs than they are to moles or rats and are the only mole-rats that have practically no hair.

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