Photo: Naked mole rat

The naked mole rat dwells in communities very similar to insect societies.

Photograph by Raymond Mendez/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

Map

Map: Mole rat range

Naked Mole Rat Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Size:
Head and body, 3 to 13 in (8 to 33 cm); Tail, up to 3 in (8 cm)
Weight:
1 oz to 3.3 lbs (28 g to 1.5 kg)
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Mole rat compared with tea cup

There are approximately 30 different kinds of mole rats. The best known is probably the naked mole rat, whose hairless, tubular, wrinkled body makes it appear a bit like a tiny walrus—or perhaps a bratwurst with teeth.

Naked mole rats are rodents, but they live in communities like those of many insects. Several dozen rats live together in colonies led by one dominant rat—the queen. As in some insect species, the queen is the only naked mole rat female to breed and bear young.

Worker animals dig the burrows that the whole clan inhabits, using their prominent teeth and snouts. They also gather the roots and bulbs for the colony to eat. Other rats tend to the queen.

Most other types of mole rats live on their own or in small families. Blind mole rats do have tiny eyes, but they are located beneath their skin and fur. These animals rely on sensitive hairs to feel their way through their underground burrows. Though mole rats spend most of their time excavating and foraging in their burrows, they occasionally emerge to search for seeds or other plants.

Mole rats have a wide geographical distribution and can live below sea level or high on mountainside plains. Because of their burrowing lifestyle, they do prefer areas with sandy or loamy soil. Many mole rat species are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Blind mole rats are found primarily in southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and Mediterranean North Africa.

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