Naked mole rats do not need oxygen to survive and they have a metabolism more like a plant than a mammal, a study shows.
Naked mole rats do not run out of energy then die when they are deprived of oxygen. They can survive for five hours at low-level oxygen areas where humans can die in minutes. Mice without oxygen die after about 20 seconds.
These cold-blooded hairless critters are more identified with rodents than being a rat. They are only one of the two mammals on earth living in eusocial societies.
In previous studies, naked mole rats conserve energy by slowing their movements. They also reduce their breathing rate and slow down their pulse.
Nevertheless, scientists still look into how these animals survive such conditions without cellular damage. Lack of oxygen can cause build up of harmful metabolites, causing brain cells to die.
Researchers assumed naked mole rats said its brain cells burn fructose for energy instead of glucose when deprived of oxygen.
However, this anaerobic respiration is generally only used by plants.
Scientists believed adapted this to survive in overcrowded and unventilated burrows.
They said other mammals can metabolize fructose in their intestines, but these creatures are able to funnel fructose into their brain cells.
Other studies about these animals show they do not develop cancer due to their very long molecules of hyaluronan.
Researchers are currently looking over this, aiming to increase this kind of molecules in human bodies.