Naked Mole Rat is Impervious to Acid and Feels No Pain

Photo: Rochelle Buffenstein / City College of New York

Quick: what is the toughest animal on earth? I mean the one that can withstand the most pain inflicted by burning acid without flinching. Did you think of a gorilla? A lion maybe? Or perhaps a charging bull?

Well, you'd be wrong: it is the naked mole rat. Here's why:

"They're the nicest, sweetest animals I've ever worked with — they look frightening, but they're very gentle," said neurobiologist Thomas Park at the University of Illinois at Chicago. [...]

As vulnerable as naked mole rats seem, researchers now find the hairless, bucktoothed rodents are invulnerable to the pain of acid and
the sting of chili peppers.

Why are they so impervious to acid?

Scientists theorize naked mole rats evolved this insensitivity to acid due to underground living. The rodents exhale high levels of carbon dioxide, and in such tight, poorly ventilated spaces it builds up in tissues, making them more acidic. In response, the mole rats became desensitized to acid.

"To give you an idea of what they experience, we normally all breathe in carbon dioxide levels of less than 0.1 percent. If people are exposed to an air mixture with as low as 5 percent carbon dioxide, we'll feel a sharp, burning, stinging sensation in our eyes and nose," Park said. "We hypothesize that naked mole rats live in up to 10 percent carbon dioxide."

This work may help lead to better understanding and treatment of chronic pain in human: Link - via Politicontrabajista

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Thanks for the link! I think what they've discovered is that they don't feel pain caused by acidity, not that they can't be damaged by acidity. Dumping them in a vat of acid would definitely kill them, though it might be a painless death.
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