Naked Mole Rats

EnolaGaia

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Except for passing allusions to how weird naked mole rats seem to be, we don't have any thread dedicated to these beasties.

Some basic fun facts ...

The naked mole-rat and the Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis) are the only known eusocial mammals, the highest classification of sociality. It has a highly unusual set of physical traits that allow it to thrive in a harsh underground environment and is the only mammalian thermoconformer, almost entirely ectothermic (cold-blooded) in how it regulates body temperature.

The naked mole-rat lacks pain sensitivity in its skin, and has very low metabolic and respiratory rates. ... The naked mole-rat is also remarkable for its longevity and its resistance to cancer and oxygen deprivation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_mole-rat
 
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EnolaGaia

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Naked mole rats may not deserve being mocked so much now ...

This lengthy Live Science article describes why naked mole rats need carbon dioxide to prevent neurological seizures and how understanding more about this may provide clues for better management of human infant / childhood epilepsy.
We expel carbon dioxide as waste. Naked mole rats bathe their brains in it to prevent seizures.

Naked mole rats are supremely weird creatures — they don't need much oxygen, and instead have seizures if they don't get enough carbon dioxide, the chemical humans exhale when we breathe, researchers just found.The scientists found that the wrinkled rodents will even seek out areas that have been infused with the gas.

But why? Turns out, due to a genetic mutation, naked mole rats lack an important switch in their brains that helps to tamp down electrical activity in the organ, and thus, prevent seizures, according to a new study published today (April 30) in the journal Current Biology. This mutation might seem dangerous, but in reality, it allows the mole rat to conserve its precious energy stores. Rather than expending energy to operate the anti-seizure switch, the rodents rely on carbon dioxide to keep their brain activity in check.

"Carbon dioxide is really good at calming the brain down, if not shutting the brain down," said study author Dan McCloskey, an associate professor of psychology at the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. McCloskey studies epilepsy, a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures, and thinks the study of naked mole rats could help to unravel mysteries surrounding the human medical condition. ...

For instance, about 2% to 4% of children under age 5 experience seizures after running a high fever — a phenomenon known as a febrile seizure ... A 2014 study published in the journal EMBO Reports suggests that some of these children share the same genetic quirk that leaves naked mole rats prone to seizures in the absence of carbon dioxide.

While more research will be needed to explain this connection, McCloskey said that his mole rat study hints that, in addition to genetics, air quality and breathing patterns may play important roles in human epilepsy. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/naked-mole-rats-have-seizures-without-carbon-dioxide.html
 

Xanatic*

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They also sleep on their back, which to me makes it look like regular rats sunbathing nude.
 

Lord Lucan

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They are ugly cute! I came across these hairless fellows at Singapore zoo last year when I was there. While I was unable to get a picture of an actual mole rat itself ( their enclosure is quite dim, like a large ant colony display) it does have this splendid giant rendition of one to entice you in to see them.
molerat.jpg
 
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GNC

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I first heard of naked mole rats in Errol Morris's fine documentary Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, which is recommended as a naked mole rat primer. One thing I remember: they are obsessed with digging, so don't hold them in your palm, because they will start biting into it to dig into your hand.
 

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Naked mole rats have been found to be hard of hearing, and it seems this deficiency is actually an adaptation to their otherwise quite (relatively) noisy environs ...
Naked Mole Rats Would Deafen Themselves if They Weren't Already Hard of Hearing

... For naked mole rats and their cousins, the loss of genes that would usually amplify noises is another extraordinary adaptation in a long line of tricks they've evolved to withstand the stresses of a subterranean lifestyle.

Pale and bald with saggy skin, big teeth and rudimentary eyes, these thumb-sized East-African mammals aren't exactly blessed in the looks department. Not that it matters when you spend virtually your entire existence in darkness.

Being social animals, what does matter is an ability to communicate with other members of your clan in some way, so it shouldn't be all that surprising that mole rats like them tend to be chatty little critters.

What is surprising is that all of that talk falls on ears that might have trouble hearing much of it.

"Naked mole rats are constantly chirping and squeaking," says neuroscientist Thomas Park, from the University of Illinois Chicago.

"We were curious about their hearing since they are so vocal, but research had suggested that their hearing is actually quite bad."

Just how bad their hearing is – and why – is the question Park and his colleagues set out to answer.
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/mole-r...ss-just-to-cope-with-such-a-quiet-environment
 
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