Naked digger

The naked digger is not charming and attractive, but he certainly is an amazing animal, because he has many unique features that are not characteristic of other rodents. We will try to analyze the life of the digger, describing not only his external features, but also the habits, behavior, diet of the animal, its permanent places of deployment and reproduction features.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Naked digger

Photo: Naked mole rat

The naked mole rat is a rodent that belongs to the mole rat family. This unusual family includes African burrowing mammals, scientists have identified 6 genera and 22 varieties of diggers from them. Having delved into history, it is worth noting that this extraordinary family of rodents has been known since the early Neogene, in that distant period this species of rodents also lived in Asia, where it is not found now.

For the first time, a naked mole rat was discovered back in the 19th century by the German naturalist Ruppel, who found a rodent at random and mistook it for a sick mouse that had lost its hair due to an illness. At that time, no special attention was paid to the digger, some scientists studied only their unusual social structure. When technologies for studying the genetic code appeared, scientists found out many amazing features of these bald rodents.

Video: Naked mole rat

It turns out that naked mole rats do not age at all with age, remaining still active and healthy. Their bone tissue remains the same dense, the heart is strong, sexual function is normal. Surprisingly, all vital characteristics are constant, not deteriorating as you get older.

An interesting fact: The life expectancy of naked mole rats is six times longer than the life span measured by nature to other rodents. For example, rodents live from 2 to 5 years, and a digger can live all 30 (or even a little more) without aging at all!

Studying these unique creatures, scientists have found out many amazing features , inherent in diggers, among which are:

  • insensitivity to pain;
  • fearlessness and resistance to acid (they are not afraid of thermal and chemical burns);
  • composure;
  • possession of unsurpassed immunity (virtually do not suffer from cancer, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, etc.);
  • the ability to do without oxygen for as long as 20 minutes;
  • long lifespan for rodents.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Naked digger underground

Photo: Naked digger underground

The dimensions of a naked mole rat are small, the length of its body does not go beyond 12 cm, and its weight ranges from 30 to 60 grams. It should be noted that males are much smaller than females, which can weigh half as much as their cavaliers. The whole physique of the digger can be called cylindrical, the head of the rodent is quite massive, and the short limbs are five-fingered.

Interesting fact: Only at first glance, the digger seems bald, after all, some hairs scattered over the body , he has, especially in the area of ​​u200bu200bthe paws, they are better viewed.

Due to their wrinkled skin, diggers turn virtuoso in tight spaces, giving the impression that rodents do somersaults inside their skin when they make a U-turn. Diggers have chisel-like incisors that protrude beyond the mouth when outside, and their animals are used for digging like excavator buckets. The labial folds behind the incisors protect the diggers from getting into the mouth of the earth. It should be noted that the well-developed jaw of diggers is very powerful and has a large muscle mass.

The diggers are practically blind, their eyes are very tiny (0.5 mm) and distinguish between flashes of light and darkness. They can navigate in space with the help of vibrissae, located not only in the muzzle area, but throughout the body, these sensitive hairs act as tactile organs. Although the auricles of these rodents are reduced (they are a leathery roller), they hear perfectly, capturing low-frequency sounds. The scent of diggers is also quite good. In general, the leathery surface of the body of the mole rat is pink and wrinkled.

Where does the naked mole rat live?

Photo: Naked mole rat

Photo: Naked mole rat

All diggers inhabit the hot African continent, namely, its eastern part, choosing places south of the Sahara desert. As for the naked mole rat, it is most often found in savannah and semi-desert areas in Somalia. Also, diggers inhabit Kenya and Ethiopia, occupying arid savannahs and semi-deserts for permanent residence. Scientists managed to find out that once diggers inhabited Mongolia and Israel, this became known thanks to the remains of animals found in these countries. Now diggers live exclusively in Africa.

As already noted, diggers live in open spaces (in semi-desert savannahs), rodents love sandy and loose soil, and can climb mountains to a height of up to one and a half kilometers. These unusual creatures are used to living in the bowels of the earth, digging out entire underground labyrinths with their powerful incisors, consisting of many ornate tunnels, the length of which can be several kilometers. On the surface, excavators almost never get out, so it is not possible to see them.

Sometimes young growth during the resettlement period may appear for a short time outside. Even very arid and concrete-like soil does not bother naked diggers, they are able to dig (or rather, gnaw through) a whole series of catacombs in it, plunging deep into the earth from one and a half to two meters.

What does a naked mole rat eat?

Photo: African naked mole rat

Photo : African naked mole rat

Naked mole rats can be safely called vegetarians, because their diet contains dishes exclusively of plant origin. The menu of diggers consists of rhizomes and tubers of plants, both cultivated and wild.

An interesting fact: It happens that, when finding a tuber, a digger eats only part of it, and a rodent pours earth into the hole that he gnawed out so that the potato grows further, so a smart digger tries to provide himself with food for the future.

These rodents get their food only underground. Animals also receive the moisture necessary for the body from roots and tubers, so they do not need a watering place. To prevent earth from getting into the nostrils of the diggers while searching for food, a special skin fold protects them from above, which is called the “false lip”. It is worth noting that the digger does not have an upper lip.

These unique rodents have a very slow metabolism. have a surprisingly low body temperature of 30 to 35 degrees. In this regard, animals do not need so much food, compared to other mammals of similar dimensions. When naked mole rats are eating, like hamsters, they are able to hold their snack in their front paws. Before they start eating, they shake off the earth from it, cut it into separate pieces with sharp incisors, and only then chew it carefully using their small cheek teeth.

Peculiarities character and lifestyle

Photo: Naked digger

Photo: Naked mole rat

Naked mole rats are classified as eusocial animals, i.e. they have the highest level of social organization, in their way of life they are similar to social insects (ants, bees). Underground colonies of these rodents usually number from 70 to 80 animals.

An interesting fact: There is information that scientists observed colonies of diggers, in which about 295 animals lived.

The entire length of underground labyrinths, which is the habitat of one colony, can extend from 3 to 5 km. The earth that is thrown out when digging tunnels reaches a mass of three or four tons in a year. Typically, the tunnel has a diameter of 4 cm and is located at a depth of two meters.

Tunnels serve to interconnect:

  • nesting chambers;
  • stern rooms;
  • latrines.

Digging underground passages is a team work, they start it more actively in the rainy season, when the earth softens and becomes more pliable. A chain of 5 or 6 diggers moves in single file, following the first working individual, biting its incisors into the soil layer, which the rodents following the first animal help to rake. From time to time, the first digger is replaced by the next animal behind.

All diggers living within the same colony are relatives. The head of the entire settlement is a single female producer, who is called the uterus or queen. The queen can mate with a couple or three males, all other individuals of the colony (both male and female) are workers, they do not participate in the reproduction process.

Depending on the dimensional parameters, a number of functions are inherent in the workers. Large individuals are ranked among the soldiers involved in protecting their fellow tribesmen from ill-wishers. Small diggers are assigned to maintain the tunnel system, nurse the young and look for food. The activity of medium-sized individuals is intermediate; there are no clear distinctions between the castes of diggers, as is typical for ants. The female queen throughout her life is busy only with the reproduction of offspring, giving birth to more than one hundred offspring.

An interesting fact: From one observation, it is known that in 12 years the uterus produced about 900 diggers.

It is worth adding that naked mole rats have a very developed sound communication, in their vocal range there are at least 18 varieties of sounds, which is much more compared to other rodents. It is not typical for diggers to maintain a constant body temperature; it (temperature) can fluctuate, depending on the temperature regime of the environment. To slow down the drop in temperature, diggers gather in large groups and can bask for a long time in burrows located near the surface of the earth. Possession of a slow metabolism contributes to the survival of diggers where there is not enough oxygen in the bowels of the earth and the content of carbon dioxide is increased, which is deadly to other living creatures.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Naked diggers underground

Photo: Naked diggers underground

As mentioned earlier, the female, called the queen or uterus, is responsible for the reproduction of offspring in naked mole rats. For mating, she uses only a few fertile males (usually two or three), all other inhabitants of the underground labyrinth do not participate in the breeding process. The female queen does not change partners, maintaining constant relationships with these chosen males for many years. The duration of pregnancy is about 70 days, the uterus is able to acquire new offspring every 80 days. There can be a maximum of 5 litters per year.

Naked mole rats can be called very prolific, in comparison with other rodents, the number of cubs of one litter can vary from 12 to 27 individuals. Each baby weighs less than two grams. Although more than two dozen cubs can be born at a time, the female has only 12 nipples, but this does not mean at all that some of the offspring die. Thanks to the research of American scientists, it became known that the babies of naked mole rats feed in turn, because. the female mother has a lot of milk. Due to this method of feeding, babies are already aware of the importance of social connections at a very early age.

The queen mother treats the babies with milk for a month, although they begin to eat solid food as early as two weeks of age. Cubs tend to eat the feces of other workers, so they acquire the bacterial flora necessary in order to digest the vegetation they eat. At the age of three or four weeks, the young diggers are already moving into the category of workers, and the rodents become sexually mature closer to the age of one. As already noted, diggers for rodents live for a very long time – about 30 years (sometimes more). Scientists have not yet been able to figure out exactly why this unique mechanism of longevity functions.

An interesting fact: Although it is prestigious to be a female queen, they live much less than other working diggers. Researchers have found that the lifespan of the uterus varies from 13 to 18 years.

The naked mole rat’s natural enemies

Photo: Naked Rodent Excavator

Photo : Naked digger rodent

Due to the fact that diggers lead an underground and secretive lifestyle, they practically do not get out to the surface, these rodents do not have so many enemies, because it is not easy to find a digger in the bowels of the earth, where he dives up to two meters deep. Despite the protected and safe living conditions of these rodents, they still have detractors. The main enemies of diggers can be called snakes. Rarely, but it happens that a snake directly underground pursues a single rodent, striving for it along a dug tunnel. This happens infrequently, usually snakes guard animals on the surface.

Mole snakes hunt naked mole rats at the moment when rodents throw out excess earth from their holes. An insidious creeping person is waiting for the appearance of a digger, sticking her head right into the hole. When the rodent appears to throw out the earth, it grabs it with a lightning lunge. It should be noted that although the diggers are almost blind, they distinguish smells perfectly, they can immediately recognize their relatives from strangers, and the animals are very intolerant of the latter.

The enemies of naked mole rats can also include people who consider these creatures pests of crops and try to exterminate rodents. Of course, diggers can damage crops by feasting on root crops and roots, but do not forget that, like moles, they also have a beneficial effect on the soil, draining it and saturating it with oxygen.

Population and species status

Photo: Naked Digger

Photo: Naked digger

At first glance, it may seem that naked diggers are completely defenseless creatures, because. they practically do not see anything, have small dimensions, are devoid of woolen cover. This feeling is deceptive, because these rodents can compete with other long-lived animals regarding their survivability. Speaking about the population size of naked mole rats, it is worth noting that these unusual animals are not uncommon in the vast areas of their settlement and are quite common. The number of naked mole rats is not threatened with extinction, rodents remain numerous, which cannot but rejoice. According to the IUCN, this species of rodents has a conservation status that causes the least concern, in other words, naked mole rats are not listed in the Red Book and do not need special protective measures.

A number of reasons that include:

  • underground, secretive and safe life of diggers, protected from external negative influences;
  • their resistance to various dangerous diseases;
  • rodents’ immunity to pain and survivability when exposed to various adverse factors;
  • a unique mechanism of longevity;
  • an unusually high fecundity.

populations at the right level. It remains to be hoped that this will continue in the future.

In the end, I would like to add that nature never ceases to amaze us, thanks to such exclusive and super-hardy creatures as the naked digger. Although external attractiveness is not their strong point, these rodents have a lot of other extraordinary advantages that other animals cannot boast of. These amazing animals can rightfully be called great originals and nuggets of the underworld.

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