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Giant Mole Rat Rats are some of the most troublesome and damaging rodents in the United States. They eat and contaminate food, damage structures and property, and transmit parasites and diseases to other animals and humans. Rats live and thrive in a wide variety of climates and conditions and are often found in and around homes and other buildings, on farms, and in gardens and open fields.
Giant Mole Rat
The giant Zambian mole rat (Fukomys mechowii) is a subterranean Afrotropical rodent noted for its regressed visual system and unusual patterns of circadian rhythmicity - within this species some individuals exhibit distinct regular circadian patterns of locomotor activity while others have arrhythmic circadian patterns. The current study was aimed at understanding whether differences in circadian chronotypes in this species affect the patterns and proportions of the different phases of the sleep-wake cycle.
Physiological parameters of sleep and behaviour were recorded continuously for 72 h from 6 mole rats using a telemetric system and a low-light CCTV camera connected to a DVD recorder. The results indicate that the arrhythmic individuals spend more time in waking with a longer average duration of a waking episode, less time in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) with a shorter average duration of an NREM episode though a greater NREM sleep intensity, and similar sleep cycle lengths. The time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) and the average duration of an REM episode were similar between the chronotypes.
Behaviour: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. Within this formidable environment, naked mole-rats have broken many mammalian rules and evolved an oddly insect-like social system.Despite the fact that they burrow underground like moles and have rat-like tails, naked mole-rats are in fact neither moles nor rats. The majority of the species referred to as mole-rats belong instead to the family Bathyergidae and are more closely related to porcupines, chinchillas, and guinea pigs than to their namesakes. Thirty-seven other species, such as the Palestine mole-rat (Spalex ehrenbergi), are also referred to as mole-rats but share only superficial similarities to the Bathyergidae and to one another.
Mole-rats of the family Bathyergidae are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, where they can be found just about anywhere there are plants with large underground roots and tubers—the staple of mole-rats’ diet. Naked mole-rats are limited to the horn of Africa, including parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They are the only mole-rat species that lacks typical rodent fur. However, that’s not the only thing that makes them odd.Much like ants, termites, and some bees and wasps, naked mole-rats are considered “eusocial,” or truly social.
Giant Mole Rat
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. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo houses three colonies, the largest of which boasts more than 50 mole-rats. Visitors to the Small Mammal House can examine one of these colonies, which occupies a labyrinth of transparent tubes. The Zoo also displays a colony of Damaraland mole-rats (Cryptomys damarensis), which are also eusocial, and a Palestine mole-rat, which lives solitarily as it would in the wild.
As a mammal with the social life of a termite and the temperature regulation of a frog, the naked mole-rat remains an enigma to scientists—and an exquisite example of how species can develop physiological and behavioral adaptations that allow them to live in the strangest of places. Scientists hope that further research on these elusive creatures will shed light not just on mole-rats’ secret lives, but on the evolution of social systems in mammals more broadly.
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