Surprisingly long survival of premature conclusions about naked mole-rat biology

Stan Braude, Susanne Holtze, Sabine Begall, Julia Brenmoehl, Hynek Burda, Philip Dammann, Delphine del Marmol, Ekaterina Gorshkova, Yoshiyuki Henning, Andreas Hoeflich, Annika Höhn, Tobias Jung, Dania Hamo, Arne Sahm, Yury Shebzukhov, Radim Šumbera, Satomi Miwa, Mikhail Y. Vyssokikh, Thomas von Zglinicki, Olga AverinaThomas B. Hildebrandt

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Naked mole-rats express many unusual traits for such a small rodent. Their morphology, social behaviour, physiology, and ageing have been well studied over the past half-century. Many early findings and speculations about this subterranean species persist in the literature, although some have been repeatedly questioned or refuted. While the popularity of this species as a natural-history curiosity, and oversimplified story-telling in science journalism, might have fuelled the perpetuation of such misconceptions, an accurate understanding of their biology is especially important for this new biomedical model organism. We review 28 of these persistent myths about naked mole-rat sensory abilities, ecophysiology, social behaviour, development and ageing, and where possible we explain how these misunderstandings came about.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-393
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • ageing
  • Bathyergidae
  • cancer
  • naked mole-rat
  • physiology
  • sensory biology
  • social behaviour
  • sociality
  • subterranean life
  • thermoregulation


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