Tuesday, September 8, 2009
This week will mark two milestones for our naked mole-rat pups: Their eyes have opened and they will soon be completely weaned from their mother’s milk.
On September 5, our one month-old baby naked mole-rats were observed with their eyes open. This might have actually begun a few days earlier. Like many new-born animals, naked mole-rats are born with their eyelids fused and remain unable to open them for a period of time. This is less of an obstacle to naked mole-rats than to kittens or puppies. Even adult mole-rats do not rely on vision to navigate their tunnels, recognize colony members or find food. The babies have been happily wandering the tunnels well before their eyes opened. Still, we are encouraged by this development.
Sometime around September 12, the baby mole-rats will be completely weaned. Already they rely mostly on solid food and their continued weight gain is sign that they are processing it well. It is a real treat to watch them eat. They can pack in a lot of food with their tiny mouths!
Their behavior is changing too. Now the babies engage in gentle sparring with each other or with older workers without evidence of any harm coming to them. Do not be alarmed – most young animals play/ fight. Just watch our visitors during school group season!
As you watch the pups playing, you may notice that a second female mole-rat is pregnant. It is uncommon for more than one naked mole-rat to produce pups in a single colony. What’s going on here? We are closely watching the behavior of both females, the colony and the pups to try to determine the answer. Is our colony splitting into two? Will one queen cease to have pups as the other’s pups thrive? Or will the two exist side by side in a two queen colony?
We still don’t have the answers but are enjoying watching these pups grow and learning more about these fascinating creatures.
To be continued…
For more information, here is a link to a very helpful article on all the relevant facts about normal mole-rat life and behaviors. If you ever want to look up anything about them it is probably in here somewhere.