Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Naked mole rats return to the zoo

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 2010 at 5:58 PM

From the listings desk: Naked mole rats are hot, according to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. So much so, that this summer the naked mole rat exhibit will return to the zoo due to popular demand after several years' hiatus.

The rats, which resemble "badly stuffed sausages" (according to the zoo press release) will live in a newly constructed habitat in Primate World.

These highly social animals cannot survive individually, the zoo says, and live in colonies much like insects, with a Queen and workers. The zoo exhibit will show this hierarchy, with a setup that mimics the rat's point of view.

Glamour shots, NMR-style
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Glamour shots, NMR-style

Here are some more naked mole rat facts:

Naked mole-rats spend virtually their entire lives in the total darkness of underground burrows. Ensconced in the arid soils of Africa, these three-inch-long creatures must continually dig tunnels in search of sporadic food supplies and evade the deadly jaws of snakes. ...

Much like ants, termites, and some bees and wasps, naked mole-rats are considered “eusocial,” or truly social. They live in large colonies, presided over by a Queen, in which only the Queen and a few select males breed while the rest of the colony—all members of the same family—work together to raise young and maintain the colony. Wild colonies range in size from 20 to 300 individuals, with an average colony consisting of 75 individuals.

Naked mole-rat colonies are organized into castes. At the top of the heap—second only to the ruling matriarch—is the queen’s harem of one to three males with whom she chooses to mate. Beneath these high-status breeders are soldiers—both male and female—who defend the colony against predators and foreign mole-rats. Odors distinguish friends from foes. To achieve a recognizable odor, naked mole-rats often roll about in the burrow’s toilet chamber, coating their body with the familiar scent of the colony’s feces and urine. Extremely xenophobic, naked mole-rats will fiercely attack unfamiliar intruders that may be encountered when one colony breaks into the burrow of another.

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