Not Another Julia Roberts Story

UPDATED 03/30/1992 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/30/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

DOES MOTHER NATURE HAVE A SENSE OF humor, or was she just having an off-day 40 million years ago when she came up with the Heterocephalus glaber? The naked mole rat may only measure about 4 inches from nose to base of tail, but visually, with its hairless, pink skin, beady eyes and huge buckteeth, it looms large in the annals of homeliness. Too much for even a mother to love?

Not so, says Randy Morgan, surrogate mom to the 32 baldies in residence at the Cincinnati Zoo—one of a handful of zoos worldwide that house the little rodents. "They are the only mammal that lives colony-style, like insects," says Morgan, himself an entomologist. Indeed, the East African desert natives live underground in tunnel towns, like ants.

For entertainment, there's courting the queen rat. Since she doesn't see well, her suitors appeal mostly to her sense of smell. "To attract attention from the queen and to identify themselves as belonging to her colony," says Morgan, "the males roll in the communal urine and feces pile." Sounds a little like fraternity life.

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Emma and Andrew: All About Hollywood's Cutest Couple
  • Prince George! More Yummy Photos

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine


From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters