Naked mole rat

Heterocehalus glaber

Naked mole rats range across arid areas of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. They are herbivores.

Naked mole rat behavior and facts

  • Naked mole rats live in a caste system in which individuals are organized in task-oriented castes (classes). Each caste – from worker to soldier and queen – is distinguished by its appearance.
  • They are highly social, living in underground colonies of 75 to 300 members of an extended family.  
  • Within a colony, breeding is restricted to one female, whose aggressive behavior suppresses breeding by other females. Nonbreeders dig an extensive tunnel system that keeps air temperatures constant.  They also defend the colony and help feed the young.
  • Naked mole rats have cylindrical bodies and short limbs adapted to life in underground tunnels. Despite having no external ears, their hearing is well developed. Their eyes are small or they may be blind. Their sense of smell is well-developed and their sense of touch is acute: touch-sensitive hairs cover the rat’s body. Its incisor teeth are chisel-like.
  • Naked mole rats eat roots and tubers, but because they have a low metabolism, they don’t require a lot of food.

Did you know?

  • Naked mole rats can move backwards easily. Their loose skin also helps them turn around in tight spaces.
  • They are cancer-resistant thanks to a molecule that prevents cells from overcrowding and forming tumors.
  • Their tunnel networks add up to be miles in length.

From birth to death

  • The sole breeding female in a colony may have up to 4 litters per year.
  • Gestation: 70 to 80 days
  • Litters: average of 12; a record of 27 in captivity
  • Parenting: young are cared for by the entire colony
  • Sexual maturity: 1 year
  • Lifespan: 10 years in the wild (23-28 years in captivity)

Vital statistics

  • Length, head and body: 3.5 to 4.7 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 2.1 ounces


Not listed due to its wide distribution and few threats.

Naked mole rats, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo’s naked mole rats live in the Africa Savanna exhibit. Their daily diet consists of fruit, rodent pellets and root vegetables, along with woody browse to chew.