Naked Mole-rat Pup FAQs

Newborn naked mole-rats are very small. A newborn pup is about the size of a jelly bean.
The queen chose to give birth to two pups in a chamber that is not on the cam, however members of the colony helped move one pup to the chamber on camera. It is possible that they might be moved off the cam. Even if they are on camera, it may still be difficult to see them since they are so tiny. It is much more likely that they will be visible by the time they are three to four weeks old, when they will start performing tasks similar to the workers in the colony.
Newborn naked mole-rats are very underdeveloped and small compared to adults. However, like adults, they are blind and do not have fur on their bodies except for whiskers and some hairs between their toes.
The entire colony helps take care of naked mole-rat pups, but until the pups are mobile and more independent, they will typically stay near the queen. She will move around the chambers, and she and other mole rats will move the babies with her. The other naked mole-rats in the colony will visit the queen and bring her food so she doesn’t have to move.
They will nurse from the queen for about a month, but they may start sampling solid foods in about two weeks. Pups also eat the feces of other workers in the colony, which inoculates their digestive systems with beneficial gut fauna.
The queen only breeds with a few select males in the colony, but keepers are not sure which male ultimately sired the pups.
Naked mole-rat queens can birth up to 30 pups, however first-time mothers usually give birth to approximately one to 10 pups.
It was difficult to know for sure if the queen was pregnant before she gave birth. Since the queen directs the entire colony and naked mole-rats identify each other by smell, keepers did not want to disturb the queen to check for pregnancy. Instead, they monitored her weight which has been increasing for the past several weeks. Keepers also saw movement in her abdomen that indicated she may be pregnant.
Naked mole-rats have a 70-day gestation.
Naked mole-rats are eusocial mammals, meaning they live in a colony and only one female in that colony breeds. The workers in the colony help raise any pups that are born. The entire colony is sensitive to any change or disruption. Keepers do not want to disrupt the colony in any way, so they will allow the naked mole-rats to solely care for the pups.

This is the first litter of pups for this naked mole-rat colony, and it is possible that some or all of the pups may not survive. If the colony can sense that the pups are sick or there is something wrong with them, they may decide to stop caring for them or eat them.

The colony has been working to establish a new queen since they moved to the Zoo earlier this year. When a colony is establishing a queen, it is in flux and there is often conflict between naked-mole rats, especially females who may become queen. The queen is the largest naked mole-rat in the colony and the only breeding female.