Naked mole-rats live in underground burrows in the savanna and deserts of East Africa.
Not a mole and not a rat, the naked mole-rat is one of the world’s most unusual rodents. This fascinating creature lives in East Africa’s deserts. They have pink, wrinkly skin and skinny, rat-like tails, and they dig and live in underground burrows the way moles do. Naked mole-rats are more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas, and guinea pigs than they are to moles or rats, and are the only mole-rats that have practically no hair.
Most mole-rats live by themselves. But the naked mole-rat and the Damaraland mole-rat are the only two mammal species that are eusocial (pronounced “yew SO shul”). This means they live in a colony that may have several generations living together and just a few individuals that produce all the offspring for the colony, much the way bees and ants live.
Queen of the mole-rats
The queen of the colony is larger and longer than all the other mole-rats. Her job is to breed and have pups, and to keep her position as the dominant mole-rat in the colony. But the queen is not born into her position: she must earn it. Females fight for the right to be queen. Once a queen is established, she actually stretches the space between the vertebrae in her backbone to become longer and get ready to have pups. The queen tries to keep control of her colony by biting and pushing the other mole-rats to remind them she is the boss.