Naked mole rats are definitely bizarre. Seemingly immune to cancer and ageing, they have a life expectancy of over 30 years, an insect-like social society dominated by a queen, and the unusual ability of being able to run backwards as fast as they can run forwards. These features are thought to have evolved to help the animals survive in the hot, humid, underground burrows with sparsely distributed food where they live in west Africa.
One interesting feature that doesn’t get as much attention is their curious teeth, which they use to dig with. Their lower incisors are permanently on show on the outside of the animal’s lips and can move independently of each other, almost like a pair of chopsticks. This means that mole rats can dig with their teeth, without getting too much soil in their mouths. Amazingly, naked mole rats have also been seen inserting the husks of tubers behind their incisors, placing them delicately in front of their lips to act as a face mask against the dirt.