Friday, September 5, 2014
Most of us think our naked mole rats are cute as they hustle about in their plastic tube colony, but you might be surprised to discover they’re often hard at work, each with a specific job to do. When I began working as an animal care volunteer, I assumed our exhibit colony was too small and too different from a wild colony of mole rats to reveal much about mole rat behavior. Turns out I was wrong.
two queens) and each queen’s one to three male consorts. The “soldier” caste is made up of the larger, non-reproductive animals, both male and female. The third, or “housekeeper” caste is composed of the smaller adults, again, both males and females.
Sometimes when I watch closely I notice mole rats doing their caste “jobs”. Also, I sometimes make small changes to the colony system to enhance mole rat behavior. If you watch the colony via our web cam you may see some of our industrious naked mole rats at work.
The reproductive caste mole rats, the queens at least, have one other important role in addition to producing new pups. The queen is the work boss. You may notice her conducting inspection tours to see what work needs to be done, or shoving other animals around. Laboratory research has demonstrated that colonies with the most “pushy” queens actually function most effectively! So she’s not nasty, she’s just doing her job.
Unusual behavior is just one of the things that delights me about our naked mole rats. They’re not naked, not moles, not rats, and not insects either, but I love them!
volunteering in our Science Interpretation Program. Training begins soon.