About naked mole rats

The world is full of weird things, but few of them are weirder than the Naked Mole Rat.

Look at him, sitting up there at the top of my blog. He looks like Thatcher’s neck. Like Voldemort’s soul. Like a furious scrotum.

But this fugly little critter could save your life one day. He’s remarkable.

A long time ago, in a galaxy country far, far away (Sudan) a young British zoology graduate with no friends, profound body odour, and a terrible nasal voice (I’m guessing) decided to make the Naked Mole Rat his life’s work. Everything else was being studied, and this was all there was left.

It was like being picked last for the game, and having to go in goal.

Except that this case the “goal” was a searingly hot desert full of radical terrorists and scorpians, and the “game” was crawling around in the dust for 17 years trying to dig up a bad-tempered rat that looks like a boiled foetus, and which loves nothing more than biting the end of your fingers off.

He was in nerd heaven.

And what do you know: nerd-boy accidentally discovered that the naked mole rat is possibly the most valuable creature in science. He deserves a Nobel prize (or to be allowed to touch a girl, which he’d probably value more).

Why is the naked mole rat a good thing?

Let me count the ways:

  1. He doesn’t get cancer. Or rather, he does, but only individual cancer cells. His body kills off cancer like you and I kill off a cold. No mole rat has even been found with a tumour. About a quarter of all vertibrates have at least one tumour in them when they die. Dogs, elephants, whales, sparrows – they all get cancer. But not the mole rat. So, needless to say, there are thousands of scientists tearing the little buggers into small pieces right now, trying to work out how we can copy them.
  2. He doesn’t seem to age, or at least does it so slowly that nobody can see it happening. So Laboratoire Garnier, the Amstrad of made up science, have a colony of over 2 million mole rats to experiment on (more than 100x more than there are in the wild). One day ladies, you could be smearing mole rat all over your face.
  3. He feels no pain, because of a hormone which is unique to the mole rat. So he’s now being studied all over the world for the anaesthetic properties he has, which could help millions with chronic pain.
  4. He lives in monogomous groups – that is, he’s faithful to a primary mate, but both partners have sex with a select group of friends while their mate watches. He’s a swinger!

All of this might give you a clue why my blog is called Heterocephalus Gabler. I’m gonna start off talking about my adventures during 2011, when I had a surprising little visit from Mr Cancer.

Like the mole rat, my body put up a pretty extraordinary fight against cancer, and kicked it’s ass. (I take no credit for this, it was just luck).

Like the mole rat, I didn’t really have a pain response at the time. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt physically – at times it was fucking agony – but I never felt any emotional distress about it. Still don’t.

Like the mole rat, I’m aging much slower than I should be. I’m into my 40s but almost nobody believes me. I’m more Arm Pit than Brad Pitt, but I do look slightly better naked than the naked mole rat does. So try not to throw up.

And, of course, I’m a gabbler. Heterocephalus gabler. The Naked Mole Rat.


5 thoughts on “About naked mole rats

  1. Nope, I’ve got no kids, and am over 40 – the last time I saw a cartoon it was being projected onto a wall by candle in the hand of a Lumiere brother :o)

  2. I’ve only just discovered that naked mole rats are real. I thought they only populated the pages of one of my five year old daughter’s books. I’m rather pleased and think your picture is rather sweet. I’m not usually good at liking ugly things, so this is interesting. For me at least. What’s even better is that on googling them I discover that they are eusocial. I googled that too. What a cool thing to be. So they could solve all humanity’s ills. I particularly like the part about the division of labour into reproductive and non-reproductive groups. I’m going to use that to explain to my husband why looking after our home-educated daughter full-time means that I should be able to give up my job and spend some time writing a blog, though I don’t think it would be as good as yours. Thank you for the introduction to naked mole rats and for the Huff post. I’m going to see what else I can find.

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