Lots of exciting things have been happening at Liberty Science Center lately (hello, new planetarium!), and among those exciting things, we were thrilled to welcome another new litter of naked mole rats, bringing the total colony number to 51.
This is our third round of newborns in the past year – but it's particularly special this time, because it was born to a different queen than the previous two!
One of the things that make naked mole rats so unique is that their colonies are similar to bees and ants, with only one reproductive female, known as the queen. (They are one of the few mammals that have this type of social structure.)
However, unlike insects, the naked mole rat queen is not born into her status. She will earn that position by dominating the other females in the group, often fighting her way to success. Once she becomes queen, she releases chemicals that suppress fertility in the other females in the group, thus preventing them from reproducing as well.
Typically, you will only see a new queen develop after one dies or is removed from the colony. Thankfully, in our case, a second queen developed without any aggression, giving birth only a month after the first queen!
Although uncommon, we are not the first museum where this has happened. There are also two mole rat queens at Pacific Science Center, where our colony originated. While we're not entirely sure why our colony breaks the traditional social structure, scientists are continuing to learn more about these fascinating animals every day, and we can't wait to hear more about their new discoveries!
Follow us here on the LSC blog for updates about our naked mole rats, as well as any breakthroughs that scientists have made in studying these fascinating creatures.