Naked Mole-rat Cam FAQs

What is that naked mole-rat doing?! Check out the answers to the most frequently asked Naked Mole-rat Cam questions below.

The webcam is stationary and does not follow the naked mole-rats as they roam inside their box and tunnel system. They can choose to spend time in parts of the “burrow” that are not visible on the webcam. If you don’t see any animals, wait a few minutes or check back again later to see if any of the naked mole-rats are scurrying near the webcam.

Yes! Naked mole-rats’ behavior when they are asleep is just as unusual as when they are awake! When naked mole-rats sleep, they sometimes choose to sleep upside down with their feet in the air. The position can look startling to humans, but it’s normal for them! The mole-rats will wake up and move when members of the colony walk past (or over) them. They will also sleep in groups, huddled in chambers or in tunnels. 

It is also not unusual for them to sleep during the day. They are nearly blind and live underground, so they are not on a circadian rhythm. They are active throughout the day and night — sleeping whenever they want instead of at specific times.

Naked mole-rats have translucent skin that ranges from slightly pink to grayish. It is possible to see some of their organs and their tiny identification chips through their skin. All 17 members of the colony, with the exception of the queen who is bigger, look almost identical. Keepers tell them apart by scanning the ID chips implanted under their skin with a chip reader. The chip reader displays the identification number assigned to the mole-rat, its date of birth and its sex.
The queen is the largest naked mole-rat in the colony. However, based on the positioning of the webcam, it can be difficult to distinguish her from the other mole-rats.
Naked mole-rats engage in behaviors that may seem rude by human standards. The animals sometimes walk over each other, or push each other if they meet head-on in a tunnel. However, all of those behaviors are normal for naked mole-rats.

Naked mole-rats pile up to keep themselves warm. They are unable to regulate their own body temperatures, so they huddle together for warmth. Think of them like cold-blooded mammals!

Like any social animal, naked mole-rats do occasionally squabble or fight. They have sharp teeth and powerful jaws — nearly one-quarter of their muscle mass is contained in their jaws — so it is possible that a naked mole-rat could be injured in a fight. However, that does not happen frequently. If members of a colony do display any aggressive behaviors, it is usually when they colony is selecting a new queen or if an intruder is detected trying to enter the burrow system.

The Zoo’s young colony has not displayed any aggressive behaviors so far. It is much more common to see them engage in behaviors that are not truly aggressive but may seem rude by human standards. For example, naked mole-rats will walk over each other, or push each other if they meet head-on in a tunnel. However, all of those behaviors are normal.

Live Streaming Webcams

See elephants, lions and naked mole-rats on animal cams streaming live, 24/7 from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.