Rodents        20 ноября 2018        664         0

Heterocephalus glaber. Lifestyle and Habitat Heterocephalus glaber

The bare excavator (lat. Heterocephalus glaber) is a small rodent living in eastern Africa, in the semi-deserts and dry plains of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. An amazing animal that has gathered in itself unique physiological abilities for a mammal, and is striking in its social organization, which is completely uncharacteristic for representatives of the animal kingdom.


Appearance of the Naked Digger

The photo of the naked excavator is not the most pleasant sight. The animal looks like either a large, newly born rat, or a bald miniature mole. The pinkish-gray skin of a dredge has almost no hair. You can see a few vibrissae (long hairs) that help a blind rodent to orient themselves in underground tunnels, but they are few.

The length of the body of a naked excavator does not exceed 10 cm, including a small tail of 3-4 cm. Body weight is usually within 35-40 grams. Rodent females are almost twice as heavy — about 60-70 g.

The structure of the body is adapted to the underground lifestyle of the animal. The naked digger moves on four short legs, between the fingers of which grow tough hairs that help the animal dig the ground.


Tiny eyes with weak eyesight and reduced auricles also indicate that the animal lives under the ground. However, the sense of smell in an animal is enviable and even functionally divided — the main olfactory system of diggers searches for food, an additional sense of smell is activated when individuals need to recognize their own kindred by status. This is an important point, as the way of life that leads an underground animal depends on the status.

Two long front teeth, growing from the upper jaw, serve as a small animal for digging. The teeth are strongly pushed forward, which makes it possible for the lips to tightly close the orifice from falling into the ground.


Bare-Diggers Cold-blooded Animals

Unique features of the naked excavator

It is difficult to find a mammal that can compete with a naked digger in the number of amazing features of the functioning of its life systems:

  • Cold blood. Like reptiles and reptiles, excavators can adapt to the surrounding temperature. The blessing live animals only in hot Africa, where the temperature of the earth at a depth of even two meters is not capable of leading to overcooling of the animal. At night, hardworking animals finish work. The heat subsides at this time, so naked excavators all sleep together, huddling close to each other.
  • Lack of sensitivity to pain. The substance, which transmits a signal about pain to the central nervous system, is simply absent in the excavator. The animal is not experiencing pain when cuts, bites, and even when exposed to skin acid.
  • The ability to live in conditions of oxygen deficiency. The tunnels that dig toothy diggers are located deep underground and are only 4-6 cm in diameter. African bare excavators adapted to the conditions of lack of oxygen. Compared with other animals, the number of erythrocytes in the blood of underground animals is much larger, which makes it easier to assimilate all the oxygen in the labyrinth. Even in view of the slowed-down metabolism of the naked excavator, the rodent has less air. In the mode of oxygen starvation, the animal can be more than half an hour, and this does not lead to disruption of brain activity and the death of the cells of a small digger. When oxygen becomes more and the animal returns to its usual mode of consumption, all cellular brain functionality without damage also returns to work.

A bare excavator can do without oxygen for about 30 minutes. without harm to health

  • The body’s defense against tumors and cancers. Thanks to this exceptional feature, scientists are actively researching naked diggers. It was possible to find out that the cause of such a barrier against cancer is the unusual hyaluronic acid contained in the animal’s body. As is known, the function of this acid is to reduce the permeability of microbes in the tissue, as well as maintain the elasticity of the skin and regulate water balance. So the excavators, this acid is high molecular, unlike ours — low molecular weight. Scientists suggest that this evolutionary transformation is associated with the need to improve the skin’s elasticity and elasticity of the joints of small animals, so that they can easily move along the narrow corridors of their underground labyrinths.
  • The ability to live forever young. The reason for the aging of body cells knows almost everyone. This is due to the free radicals that occur during the inhalation of oxygen, which oxidizes the cell membrane and DNA. But even here the unique animal is protected from such a harmful effect. His cells calmly withstand oxidative processes for a dozen years.


  • Ability to do without water. Throughout their lives, naked excavators do not drink a single gram of water! They are quite satisfied with the moisture that contains the tubers and roots of plants consumed in food.
  • The ability to move in any direction. This ability is also dictated by the underground lifestyle. Narrow tunnels that dig animals, so close that turn around in them is very problematic. Therefore, the ability to move both forward and reversing in such circumstances is simply irreplaceable.

Lifestyles of the Naked Digger

Not trite and the social structure of life of underground rodents. Naked excavators live on the principle of an anthill — colonies in which matriarchal reigns. The queen is the only female who has the right to produce offspring.

The remaining members of the colony (their number reaches two hundred) distribute duties among themselves — stronger and more durable labyrinths, large and elderly protect snakes from the only enemy of the diggers, and frail and small ones take care of the younger generation and search for food


Underground tunnels, diggers bare digging, lining up in one long line. The worker at the head of strong teeth paves the way, passing the earth to the one who is behind, and so on along the chain, until the earth is thrown to the surface by the last animal. During the year, such a colony unloads up to three tons of soil.

Underground passages are laid to a depth of two meters and can reach five kilometers in length. Like ants, a colony of naked excavators settles the labyrinths with storage rooms for food, rooms for raising young animals, and separate apartments for the queen.

Reproduction and longevity

Diggers do not have a specific breeding period. The queen produces offspring every 10-12 weeks. Pregnancy lasts about 70 days. In the litter of the female, the number of cubs is record for mammals — from 15 to 27.


There are twelve nipples in the female, but this is not an obstacle to feeding all babies with milk. The queen feeds them in turn during the month. After this period, the grown individual becomes a labor and joins adult relatives.

Naked diggers reach sexual maturity at the age of one year. But only the queen is allowed to mate and produce offspring. For disobedience, a cruel autocrat can strongly bite a guilty member of a colony, even to the death of an animal.

How many live naked men? Unlike their fellow mice and rats, underground diggers are considered to be long-livers. On average, the animal lives for 26-28 years, retaining throughout the journey the body’s youth and ability to reproduce.

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