Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In our last Naked mole-rat article, we announced that one of our two breeding female mole-rats was days away from delivering a litter to the colony. Life Sciences and other Pacific Science Center staff as well as many of our readers have been waiting anxiously as the pregnant female grew.
On Friday, November 13, “Elphaba” gave birth to ten pups. By Saturday morning, it was clear that all was not well with them. Four were found dead that morning, another one Sunday and the remaining five died on the night of November 16. We have lost pups before, but this does not fit a familiar pattern. It is not uncommon for one or two poorly developed animals to be lost the first day. But when larger numbers have failed, they have appeared to thrive until sometime between days 5 and 10. This rapid, early loss is unexpected and we are working with our vet to seek some necropsy information to help explain the phenomenon.
This occurrence is of particular concern because the colony as a whole has shown so many signs of improving health. Above all, we want to rule out any conditions that reflect a threat to the remaining animals.
While we were focusing on Elphaba and her pregnancy, we also noticed that Galinda appears to be pregnant again! We must also keep in mind that nearly all mole-rat colonies only have one queen. Our situation is highly unusual. There is reason to believe that a colony with two queens is untenable in the long-term. We will be watching Galinda’s litter anxiously when it is born. If her pups thrive, it may be a clue as to the status of the two rival queens. If the pups do poorly, we will go back to looking for underlying health problems. Stay tuned!