Science Daily has an interesting story on naked mole rats (and how could a story on naked mole rats be anything other than interesting I ask):
Before going further, let me remind readers of the purpose behind “What We Can Learn From Bones.” Creationists like to make two main claims about paleoanthropology. First, they claim that all we have are bone fragments and teeth, and by implication, that we can learn nothing from bone fragments and teeth. Second, they claim that paleoanthropology is a historic science and since humans were not around to witness the events in question we can never really learn anything about the past. The point of “What We Can Learn From Bones” is to show that we can gain a lot of useful knowledge from bone fragments and that there are a number of sophisticated methodologies that allow us to test our inferences about the past. Previous posts in “What We Can Learn From Bones” can be found by scrolling down my sidebar and clicking on the “Bone Fragments” category.
I am also departing, somewhat, from the outline I mentioned in the first part of “Paleodiets, Early Hominins, and Mole Rats” mainly because of several recent papers that are relevant to the issue (which I will get to later).
Do to some recent feedback on my Naked Mole Rat posts I thought there might be a way of making some money off of it – maybe millions – so I could retire in style. My first thought was I could create a Naked Mole Rat stuffed animal or maybe a beanie baby (could you imagine the reaction of some kid pulling one of these ugly spuds out of a toy meal?). But then I found this:
Oh well, back to the drawing board.
One of the blogs I visit on a regular basis is Dharma Bums There, the stories are always interesting, the writing is always great and the pictures would make Ansel Adams weep in jealousy. Today, I visit their site and what do I discover but Squirrel Porn! I was very shocked…that I didn’t think of it first. So without further ado I am proud to present: NAKED MOLE RAT PORN!
I’d really like to see someone top that!
Naked mole rats have a pretty distinctive social structure – which in some ways is similar to that found in social insects.
From Science Daily:
They live in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. They are 3-6 inches long, have pink furless skin, tiny eyes which never see the light of day, and long front teeth for digging. Despite their tiny size, the naked mole-rat family den may stretch for 2 miles entirely underground, with various rooms. In one room, a plant root protrudes to provide a meal; in another is the “potty.” When a new hallway is needed, usually for new food supplies, the naked mole-rat siblings form an earth moving chain to pass dirt out a hole which later is covered to block out intruders.
The most unusual room is the largest. It’s where Momma naked mole-rat produces more babies – as many as 12 at a time every couple of months. Here she is stoked by her numerous mates and tended to by any number of offspring whose lot in life – if not to dig tunnels – is to keep Momma happy.
Apparently, this is a really good case of altuistic social behavior in mammals, where some mole rats give up reproduction and help related mole rats care for the young. Researchers are currently investigating the relationship between DNA and social structure:
Ingram looked at regions of DNA – specifically the microsatellites, which represent distinct DNA bands, much like a satellite, which separate from the main DNA band. These rapidly changing regions of DNA don’t code for any particular trait, as far as scientists can tell. Ingram thought these regions shouldn’t be overlooked.
“If there is a random-mating population, there are a lot of sizes of those DNA bands, but a child only gets one set from the mother and one from the father,” Ingram noted. These markers are used in paternity cases for humans, she said.
She looked for changes in the processes and patterns of this strand in mole-rats, she said.
“The current methods of analyses of microsatellite markers are oversimplified and may lead to incorrect conclusions when looking at natural populations and their social structures,” Ingram said. “The relationship among members of the mole-rat family are well-accepted. Some species (of mole-rat) are strictly solitary while others, such as the naked mole-rat, are highly social.”
DNA markers, like the satellites, are important because they can reveal how traits pass from one mother to her multitude of babies conceived by various interrelated fathers. That may help understand why scores of offspring in the family are willing to support the mother naked mole-rat.