Did you know naked mole rats can live in tunnels with almost no oxygen? How? Why? Well, naked mole rats live their entire lives in colonies in closed underground burrows (in southern Africa). The oxygen in these burrows often drops to dangerously low levels.
But this doesn't bother the naked mole rats. In fact, they can go for six hours with very low oxygen, and they can go eighteen minutes with no oxygen at all. This is even more amazing considering these creatures are warm-blooded mammals, not cold-blooded reptiles or amphibians that typically use less oxygen.
How do they do it? It all has to do with the way they use sugar. As humans (as with other mammals), our cells use oxygen and a type of sugar called glucose to make fuel. If you take away the oxygen, our cells begin to die. But the naked mole rat has a trick. When its brain and muscles start getting deprived of oxygen, its body cells switch to using a different kind of sugar called fructose. Metabolizing fructose causes them to quickly drop into a state of "suspended animation." While they're in this state, they use minimal oxygen, although they take a quick breath now and then to test the air. This way they can determine when the oxygen is increasing again, and they immediately wake up and go about their business, digesting glucose again instead of fructose.
As if that weren't impressive enough, naked mole rats are also quite handsome. Don't you agree?
- Naked mole rat - DepostPhotos
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