Now, scientists have discovered another superpower: The animals can survive more than 18 minutes without oxygen.
Naked mole rats are unusually resistant to air containing high levels of carbon dioxide or little oxygen.
The mouse-size hairless mammals live in colonies of up to 300 individuals in underground burrows where oxygen can be scarce.
“Together this allows the naked mole rat to use fructose as fuel instead of glucose when there is no oxygen,” Lewin says.
Buffenstein has studied naked mole rats for more than 30 years and says the animals still manage to surprise her.
Other mechanisms such as slowing down metabolism play a role, as does the mole rats’ unusually low body temperature, a cool 30°C.
Better understanding the mole rat’s energy switchover will be key to any hope of somehow using it to help humans. »