BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) Naked Mole Rats have Accents

Naked mole rats are very communicative, chirping, squeaking, twittering and grunting to one another.

Healthy!

Naked Mole Rats are renowned for their extremely low cancer rates, their slow rate of aging, and resistance to pain.

The skin of naked mole-rats lacks neurotransmitters in their cutaneous sensory fibers, so feel no pain.

Naked mole-rats feed primarily on very large tubers (weighing as much as a thousand times the body weight of a typical mole-rat) that they find deep underground through their mining operations.

EuSocial!

The furless rodents can live in colonies of up to 300 members.

Naked mole rats are really highly unusual in that they’re the most social rodent that we know of.   They are the first mammal discovered to exhibit eusociality.  This eusocial structure of naked mole-rats is similar to that found in antstermites, and some bees and wasps. Only one female (the queen) and one to three males reproduce, while the rest of the members of the colony function as workers – some are soldiers, some are workers, and they cooperate.

Some mole rats even band together to assassinate their queen.

Squeak Fluently! (albeit with an accent)

“They are very communicative and can often be heard chirping, squeaking, twittering and grunting to one another. But scientists wanted to understand the role of these vocalizations in their social life.”
“Over two years, researchers from the MDC and the University of Pretoria in South Africa recorded 36,190 “chirps” — noises very similar to a bird tweeting — made by 166 rats belonging to seven different colonies.Using an algorithm, the team analyzed the acoustic properties of the individual vocalizations, and discovered that each colony had its own “accent” or dialect.”

As cute and industrious as they are – Naked Mole Rats have a dark side (and I’m not talking about living underground in the dark all their life) 

A bit Xenophobic

Naked mole rats speak in dialects local to their own colonies and are hostile to outsiders.

The development of a dialect points to one of the rodent’s less-savory characteristics: xenophobia.Researchers believe the mole rats use their vocalizations to recognize whether a fellow rodent is from the same or a foreign colony.   Researchers played the rats back the vocalizations, and found that they would answer recordings from their own colony — but not from a foreign colony.

“Mole rat colonies are incredibly xenophobic. If a mole rat comes from a different colony, within minutes, they are recognized and usually killed by the colony it invades” 

The researchers say this is not genetic, but rather a cultural phenomenon — to test this, the research team took orphaned mole rat pups from one colony, and let them grow up in another.

“We could cross-foster an animal from one colony to another colony, and if it grows from a baby in a new colony, it adopts the dialect from the new colony, not the colony where it was born.”

Anarchists 

Naked mole rats, for reasons unknown, periodically overthrow existing “regimes”. While the queen is the only breeding female in a colony, the researchers observed cases where a high-ranking female and a team of accomplices would “assassinate” the queen.

“The dialects before the queen was gone were much more cohesive — they all spoke with a very similar dialect. As soon as the queen was gone there was a period of anarchy, and everyone started speaking a little more variably,” he said, adding that as soon as a new queen was established, the dialects became focused again.

BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) that living in the dark your whole life can turn you into a naked assassin!

The study was published in the journal Science.

(Naked mole rats are not the only animals to have local dialects — primates and whales have been found to converse in a common tongue.)

3 comments on “BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) Naked Mole Rats have Accents

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