Article posted Thursday, May 1, 2014 1:38pm

Naked mole rat

Scientists have succeeded in establishing the gene sequence in one of the ugliest and most unusual animals on earth, Heterocephalus glaber, or Naked Mole Rat (aka, Sand Puppy or Desert Mole Rat). These hairless-appearing rodents are three to four inches long with short, skinny legs, and a pair of protruding buck teeth. Nearly blind, they look like sausages with big teeth at one end (the teeth are used for digging). They spend their lives living in clusters under the tropical grasslands of East Africa. Their system of complex tunnels can stretch up to two or three miles in length. So what’s so special about these ugly rats? Their physiology and longevity are why scientists wanted to know more about their genes. They live longer than any known rodent (up to 30 years), they can tolerate low oxygen levels and an environment with high carbon dioxide levels, they are resistant to cancer, they don’t feel many kinds of pain, and they don’t show age-related physical changes. Scientists hope to better understand the genes that prevent them from showing such changes. (, Oct. 10, 2011; Nature, published on line, Oct. 12, 2011)