Monday, May 15, 2017
Naked mole rats can survive without oxygen using plant sugar tactic - BIODIVERSITY
There are many different kinds of mole rats. The best known is probably the naked mole rat, whose hairless, tubular, wrinkled body makes it appear a bit like a tiny walrus—or perhaps a bratwurst with teeth.
Now scientists have discovered what could be the subterranean rodents’ strangest trait yet: they can survive without oxygen by switching to a metabolic strategy normally used by plants.
By switching from a glucose-based metabolic system, which depends on oxygen, to one that uses fructose instead, mole rats can cope with nearly twenty minutes in air with 0% oxygen. Under the same conditions, a human would die within minutes.
“The naked mole rat has simply rearranged some basic building-blocks of metabolism to make it super-tolerant to low oxygen conditions,” said Thomas Park, professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who made the discovery after studying the species for 18 years.
Photograph by Joel Sartore/ National Geographic Photo Ark