Helmholtz Gemeinschaft


Naked mole rats: their extraordinary sensory world

Item Type:Book Section
Title:Naked mole rats: their extraordinary sensory world
Creators Name:Park, T.J. and Lewin, G.R. and Buffenstein, R.
Abstract:In 1981, Jennifer Jarvis published her remarkable finding of a subterranean mammal – the naked mole-rat – that lived like a termite. A typical colony of naked mole-rats has a dominant breeding queen and scores of nonbreeding adult helpers. Since that publication, many aspects of the naked mole-rat have been studied and a host of additional remarkable characteristics have been identified. For example, naked mole-rats, unlike most mammals, have no insulatory fur, show pronounced thermolability (poikilothermic), and are also astonishingly long lived (30 years) for their body size. Certain aspects of their sensory systems are also extraordinary. The skin is completely hairless except for whisker-like vibrissae that crisscross the body to form a sensory array for touch. Deflecting even a single vibrissae triggers a robust and accurate orientation response of the snout toward the point of contact. Naked mole-rats are also unique in that their skin and upper respiratory tract are completely insensitive to chemical irritants such as capsaicin (from chili peppers), ammonia, and acid. The current hypotheses for these unusual features center around the equally unusual lifestyle traits of the naked mole-rat. These traits include combining subterranean life with living in great numbers in a relatively temperature-constant environment. A critical factor about their environment is that oxygen levels are low and carbon dioxide levels are high due to the large number of individuals living in close quarters under poorly ventilated conditions. The unusual ecology and social structure of the naked mole-rat make this an exciting system for understanding the evolution of sensory systems and sensory specialization.
Series Name:Reference Module in Life Sciences
Title of Book:Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior
Publisher:Academic Press
Page Range:505-512
Date:12 July 2010
Official Publication:https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-045337-8.00152-2

Repository Staff Only: item control page

Open Access
MDC Library