What the naked mole rat lacks in looks it more than makes up in longevity. While a bog-standard house mouse might live for about three years, the naked mole rat can reach the grand old age of 30, making it the longest-lived rodent on record.

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The naked mole rat has other talents, too. Though its eyes are just a few millimetres in diameter, they have an unusually high proportion of colour-sensitive photoreceptors and a rare blue-sensitive pigment that may help it to see in the dark.

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In addition, the levels of carbon dioxide that build up in a mole rat burrow are enough to cause acidic burns – but the animals appear to be oblivious to the pain.

Naked mole rat facts

Scientific name: Heterocephalus glaber

Size: 13cm from nose to tip of tail

Range: East Africa

Habitat: Grasslands

Superpower: Long-lived and oblivious to pain

Authors

Henry Nicholls is an experienced science journalist and has written news, features, interviews, opinions and book reviews for many of the world’s leading popular science magazines, broadsheets and websites. He specialises in evolutionary biology, conservation and the history of biology.

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