Week 7\Naked Mole Rats\Marian Portugal

Out of all of the different topics Siddharth Ramakrishnan discussed about consciousness, his section about naked mole rats and eusociality interested me the most.  I remember touching upon the subject of eusociality in high school, but I came across it again until this lecture. 

According to some research I did on eusociality on the internet, eusociality consists of three defining characteristics:  reproductive division of labor (with our without sterile castes), overlapping generations, and cooperative care of the young.  After reading about eusociality, I realized that naked mole rats are not the only animals that have this way of life.  Other animals are eusocial, including ants and bees. 

I remember Ramakrishnan mentioning how the naked mole rats just naturally go into the roles they are supposed to play, including the queen, male reproducers, and workers.  There are different types of workers, which can be tunnellers (to expand their burrow system), and soldiers (to protect their underground community from predators).  I thought it was interesting how, technically, they do not “discuss” with one another about who should play what role in the society; they just naturally become the producer or the worker, while being conscious of the other roles being played by the other different mole rats.

One part of the lifestyle of these naked mole rats that I wanted to learn about but could not find information about is whether or not they are aware of the roles they are playing, and if they are allowed to switch roles freely.  I am sure that no female mole rat has the freedom to become the queen, but I am specifically interested in the worker mole rats.  I want to know if they become tunnellers or soldiers based on the need of the community, their physical limitations and abilities, or if they get to choose what role they play. 

 I also found it intriguing to learn that these naked mole rats are almost completely blind.  After millions of years of spending almost their entire lives in the dark, their eyes have adapted to shrink to such a small size that they can barely see anything.  I would only expect their consciousness and awareness of their surroundings to be impaired, but apparently it is not, seeing how successful their communities are.  I learned that when one or more of your five senses are impaired, the other ones become stronger.  This may also apply to the naked mole rats, in which they are almost completely blind, but their sense of touch is extremely sensitive.  Their sense of vibrations in the ground, accompanied by their whiskers, helps them sense their surroundings.  They also have learned to use their eyes for other purposes other than sight.  They can use them to sense air currents in the tunnels.  This can help them with avoiding predators.  If a predator smashes through the ground and into the one of the tunnels, they may sense the air breaking through the open soil, and avoid that part of their home.

I find naked mole rats extremely interesting animals because of their eusocial characteristics combined with their limited senses.  It is impressive to see how conscious and aware they are of their surroundings and the roles they play.  Despite the limited senses they have adapted to over the years, they are able to change the way they use these senses to help make their able senses stronger, which allows them to create extremely complex living systems.





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