Congratulations to our naked mole rats! The queen of the colony has just given birth to 10 babies, referred to as “pups.”
Needless to say, this is a very exciting time for our favorite tiny, hairless mammals. And if you thought the adults were fascinating, just wait till you meet the pups. As newborns, they are toothless and their eyes are sealed shut. It will take 18 months before they reach their full size.
Just like the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is especially true for our mole rats. All the workers in the colony help take care of the babies. That’s because mole rats live in eusocial colonies, like bees or ants.
So what’s the queen up to? With her own built-in daycare, she’s resting comfortably while allowing the pups to nurse.
Within a few weeks, the pups will start moving around the habitat more, and even try sampling harder foods as their tiny teeth begin to grow. Around this same time, the pups will also start eating the poop of the older mole rats.
Poop?! Yes, you read that right – it may sound gross, but there’s actually a very important reason why they need to eat poop. This form of poop, known as a cecotrope, is a special kind of pellet produced by adult naked mole rats that is rich in nutrients and microbes necessary for them to digest their food and survive.
We can’t wait to follow the pups as they grow up here at LSC. Naked mole rats are strange creatures – described in one article as “the superheroes of lab animals” – and have confounded scientists with their long life spans, immunity to the aging process, and remarkable ability to withstand cancer.
Earlier this year, a study published in Science looked at mole rats and their ability to go long periods of time without oxygen – a full 18 minutes, to be exact.
There is so much more that mole rats have to teach us. We hope these newborns will offer us new insight into how these animals live!
Visit the naked mole rats during your next visit to the Science Center. They can be found on the third floor in our Eat and Be Eaten gallery.