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No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

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It's a mole-rat, jim, but not as we know it

Naked mole rats are the most social of all the mammals. They live in underground colonies with a social structure like that of ants and termites. There are castes of workers, and only the queen, an oversized female, breeds. Naked mole rats are also intensely xenophobic; they avoid or fight with other mole-rat colonies. But such tightly closed societies lead to inbreeding with all its deleterious effects. For naked mole rats to survive over the long term, a biological solution to the inbreeding problem had to be found.

The response of the species to this threat is the occasional production of a "dispersive morph." The largest and most successful colonies produce -- somehow -- a larger-than-normal individual, almost always a male, that is fuelled with extra fat and possesses a yen to travel. He is disinclined to mate with the resident queen, preferring to leave the colony for amorous adventure elsewhere. Thus, intercolony gene flow is established.

(Gee, Henry; "It's a Mole-Rat, Jim, But Not As We Know It," Nature, 380:584, 1996. O'Riain, M. Justin, et al; "A Dispersive Morph in the Naked Mole-Rat," Nature, 380:619, 1996)

Comment. Of course, the naked-mole-rat colony, even when thought of as a "superorganism," cannot perceive the future consequences of inbreeding. The invention of a "dispersive morph," according to evolutionists, has to come from a sequence of random mutations that over time create a special individual, specially fuelled and with abnormal proclivities. Those mole-rat colonies not favored with this sequence of mutations were (are?) eliminated by natural selection. This all seems a lot to ask of a random process.

Reference. To learn more about naked mole-rats and some of their close relatives, see our catalogs: Biological Anomalies: Mammals I and II. These books are described here.

Naked mole-rat colonies are highly cooperative. Here, an excavating team digs a tunnel using an endless-chain technique. Mole rats below move backwards pushing dirt back and out. They return by crawling forward over the backs of the dirt-pushers. (See BMB25 in Mammals I.)Mole-rats excavating a tunnel

From Science Frontiers #106, JUL-AUG 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987