Week 7\Consciousness\Amy Chen


Naked Mole Rats.

Naked Mole Rats.



I thought the presentation we had by Siddarth Ramakrishnan on Thursday was very interesting.  He showed examples of consciousness in a wide range of animals, one of the more interesting subjects were about the naked mole-rat.  Essentially, the idea of consciousness is the awareness of being, be that of one’s self or of one’s surroundings. 

Although blind, naked mole-rats are hyper-sensitive to their surroundings and to each other.  The eusociality of the naked mole-rat is interesting because being mammals, (one random thing I thought of) one tends to think Darwin’s idea of “Survival of the Fittest.”  If they were to help each other, there seems to be no dominant characteristic that enables them to develop/mutate into “fitter” organisms.  But it’s interesting because of the altruistic nature of these animals, they prolong all their lives…which seems to claim that eusociality rules over individual survival…basically a stratch my back and I’ll stratch yours mentality.   The fact that they are at a disadvantage - being blind and unable to create enough warmth for themselves, propagates their dependence on each other and shows that they are aware of each other.  Their reliance on each other and specific jobs is an example of their consciousness as well.  Because they are part of a society, scientists have even done experiments trying to take care of just one mole-rat.  A mole-rat in insolation are likely to die.  They work together to the fact that when a predator approaches, one will attack and sacrifice him or herself so that the colony has a better chance for survival.   Ramakrishnan described the naked mole rats as a collective whole - each one operating with a specific job in mind, be it collecting food or taking care of the young, they all contribute together to form a whole.  A good example is their method of digging tunnels.  Each worker mole-rat is part of a system similar to that of a conveyer belt, one digs through the new dirt, others kick it back until one mole-rat near the surface of the ground kicks the dirt out.  The simple fact that they come together to keep each other warm is already a good example of their consciousness of others (despite being blind).  On further research, the stability of their society is crucial to their own individual survival.  Naked Mole-Rats are even conscious of the death or disappearance of their own queen as once this happens, females will battle to the death even to become the next queen.  Another interesting fact is that even the Queens are hyper-sensitive to any other females with the possibility of becoming the future queen.  Supposedly when this happens, female naked mole-rats will start undergoing hormonal changes and the Queen herself will start becoming more aggressive towards these ‘hopefuls.’  The Queen rules fiercely and will even venture around the burrows, if a tunnel has collapsed or there is a deficit in food, she’ll use her nose to force workers into action.  Their consciousness even goes so far that at one point, once or twice a year both the male and females will break up from their colony to try and prevent incest from occurring.  These new groups of unrelated mole-rats eventually start their own colonies.  




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