Geographical Range Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya
Habitat Arid savannah grasslands
Scientific Name Heterocephalus glaber
Conservation Status Common

An animal that looks like a hot dog with buck teeth and a tail. A rodent that acts like a termite. A queen that bears all the babies. These are just a few things that make naked mole rats among the most fascinating animals in the world.

Naked mole rats have very little hair, except on their mouths (where bristly hairs keep dirt out as they chew and dig tunnels.) They are wrinkled and pink, with whiskers and four large incisors. Their body can be up to five inches long. They have no eyes (just vestigial eye openings), so they are completely blind. They depend on their sense of smell to find food.

Mole rats live in large underground colonies, from 20 to 300 individuals, in the semi-arid regions of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. They have a social system much like ants, termites or bees. There is a dominant breeding "queen" and one to three breeding males. The rest of the group, males and females, are soldiers and workers. The soldiers, larger than workers, protect the colony from predators and remove dirt from the tunnels. The workers dig tunnels, find food such as roots and tubers, and help build nests for the queen.

Workers use their powerful jaws and large incisors to excavate tunnels. Their complex tunnel systems can spread under an area as large as one football field. Because the temperature in the tunnels remains stable, they have little thermoregulation. If they get cold, they huddle together or shiver to raise their body temperature.