These nude mammals have hidden superpowers that could help us all.
Naked mole rats are small, furless, sightless rodents
The naked mole rat is pain-resistant and incredibly well-suited to its environment
Naked mole rats don’t need to drink water and can go for long periods of time without oxygen
Scientists hope to research the naked mole rat to figure out why they’re so resilient and use that information to benefit people
What is a naked mole rat?
Unless you were a fan of the much-acclaimed cartoon Kim Possible, it’s unlikely you have positive associations with the naked mole rat. These ugly little rodents are wrinkled and blind and have no fashion sense whatsoever. Native to East Africa, the naked mole rat doesn’t get a lot of good press. Even though they aren’t much bigger than your fist, their long buck teeth are as unnerving as their sightless eyes and stretching bare fingers.
However, thanks to modern science and some intrepid investigators, we might all be in for a surprise: the secret to living longer, healthier, happier lives might just lie within the naked mole rat’s clutches.
What is so special about the naked mole rat?
Obviously, naked mole rats are very comfortable in their own skins and have no problem letting it all hang loose. But there’s more to their laissez-faire approach to clothing than meets the eye. Naked mole rats don’t run around in the nude just for the fun of it or because they like the way the dirt feels on their bare skin, they have adapted to fit their environment perfectly.
The rats live in underground tunnels, and the temperature can reach up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis. Fur wouldn’t do anyone any good.
Not only do these furless wonders stay nice and cool without sweaters, but their loose, baggy skin also makes running around in rocky, bumpy tunnels a breeze. Instead of ripping out fur on rogue roots, their skin slips right off any obstacle without tearing.
The beauty of the naked mole rat is more than skin-deep, though. Naked mole rats are incredibly resilient, in almost every way imaginable. These otherwise normal rodents don’t drink water (read that again: they don’t. drink. water.), and they’ve been known to go without oxygen for 18 whole minutes without suffering any adverse effects, like brain damage or death.
Most amazingly, naked mole rats don’t feel pain, at least as far as we can tell. A team at the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered this incredible skill in 2008, and scientists are still marveling.
Unlike other rodents like mice and rats, naked mole rats live for a really long time (for rodents, that is). While the common rodent might live for three to five years and call it good, naked mole rats have been known to stick around for upwards of 30 years.
They also don’t face the same dilemmas many other mammals (including people) have to deal with, like cancer and Alzheimer’s. While it’s possible that naked mole rats can get these diseases if they live long enough, we haven’t seen it happen yet, so fingers crossed (for us and the rats).
How can the naked mole rat help me?
Okay, so naked mole rats are cool. But what good does that do anyone (other than naked mole rat enthusiasts who now have a new community of friends)? Scientists hope that by studying the flawless aging of the naked mole rat we can learn some things about how to prevent disease and pain in our own aging bodies.
The naked mole rat just goes to show that there is more to everyone and everything than meets the eye, but maybe don’t show up to your office party naked just yet.
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