The wrinkly, buck-toothed naked mole rat has a pretty good life in East Africa. They have surprisingly long lives for animals of their size and almost never get chronic diseases like cancer. In fact, they don’t really age like other mammals. Researchers studying colonies for more than 30 years have estimated that because of its unusual biology, the chance that a naked mole rat will die in its first year of life is the same as the chance that it will die at 25 years old. If this applied to humans, then a person would be just as likely to die at age 30 as at age 90.
Oddities of the naked mole rat:
- Naked mole rats live a lot longer than other animals their size -- more than 30 years in captivity and up to 17 years in the wild. Other similar-sized rodents live about 6 years, in ideal conditions.
- Naked mole rats don't go through menopause, so they are able to breed even at advanced age. Another quirk: They can live without oxygen for as long as 18 minutes, by adjusting their metabolism.
- Research shows that these rodents produce hyaluronan, a protein with anti-cancer properties. Their body chemistry also seems to protect their genomes and rapidly clear out cellular mutations.