Naked Mole Rat

Heterocephalus glaber

Body Length:3.1"–3.6"
Tail Length:1.1"–1.7"
Weight:1.2–2.8 oz
Geographic Distribution:Arid regions of central and eastern Ethiopia, central Somalia, and Kenya
Habitat:Underground colonies consisting of extensive and complex burrow systems in hard clay soil
Wild Diet:Roots and tubers
Zoo Diet:Sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, leafy veggies, grapes, bananas, and various chows
Status in the Wild:Least Concern
Location:Desert's Edge

Naked mole-rat skin is wrinkled and pinkish or yellowish. They have a short, chunky head and stiff, touch-sensitive hairs around their nose and down their back. They have very small and barely functional eyes, very small external ears, and very noticeable front teeth that stick out beyond the flaps of skin that close off the rest of their mouth. They have no true upper lip. The front and back feet are large and have five broad, flattened toes, each with a rounded claw. Their nose opens directly above their front teeth but can be protected against sand and dirt by a skin flap that is pulled over the top of their nose, like a "false lip."

• Naked mole-rats lack sweat glands and the normal mammalian layer of subcutaneous fat.
• They have a low metabolic rate compared to other mammals, an adaptation for life in an environment with limited food resources.
• They do not regulate their body temperature well internally. To maintain body temperature, they stay close to their burrows and huddle with each other. The naked skin permits rapid transfer of heat between them and their environment.
• They have one-fourth of their muscle mass in their jaw.
• They can build a burrow system that can cover as much area as six football fields.
• Their digging behavior probably increases the rate of water percolation to the roots of trees and shrubs in arid regions. They may also play a role in dispersing geophytes, plants that can reproduce vegetatively via underground roots or bulbs, and may eat plants poisonous to livestock.
• They arrived as a research colony in the United States in 1979 with Dr. Richard Alexander of the University of Michigan.
• They are also known as sand puppies or naked sand-rats.
• They have a high tolerance for low-oxygen, high-carbon dioxide environments.