Heterocephalus glaber: The Naked Mole-Rat

What is a naked mole-rat?

The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a small, burrowing mammal native to the hot, dry regions of eastern Africa. It is notable for its extensive underground burrows, its extremely long life (almost 30 years), and its atypical social behavior – H. glaber is eusocial. Behaving more like an insect colony than a colony of mammals, naked mole-rats have clearly defined social castes, including only one reproductive female and multiple castes of workers.

Naked Mole Rat Distribution

Naked mole rat distribution. (A)

What is eusociality?

Eusociality is a behavior observed most commonly, but not exclusively, in insects such as bees and ants. Burda et al. define mammalian eusociality by the following characteristics: "reproductive altruism (which involves reproductive division of labor and cooperative alloparental brood care), overlap of adult generations, and permanent (lifelong) philopatry" (4).

What is this website about?

This website seeks to explore the biology of eusocial behavior in H. glaber through Tinbergen’s four questions: phylogeny, ontogeny, mechanism, and adaptive value.

Follow the links to the left to explore each of these questions in more detail.