And God Created … 

A Creature Lacking Pain Receptors

David Everson

  Well, let me begin by saying that this creature designed by God does have pain receptors, but just not as many as most animals! I am talking about a truly unique animal, the Naked Mole Rat or, as natives of Africa call them, “sand puppies.” Among the most unusual, almost ugly to look at, animals in God’s creation, it has amazing talents but lacks some normal abilities of other animals. Let us look at some of the details of this creature’s life. 

These rodents live in eastern Africa, in the hot dry plains and desert regions of Kenya and other countries in that area. They are about 3 inches long with two pairs of huge buck teeth that protrude from their mouths. They have no fur like a normal rodent. They do have hairs on their body, just not very many, and what they do have are very sensitive to the touch and, hence, the name, “naked” mole rat. This leaves them with a wrinkled pink or yellowish skin that is very loosely wrapped around their bodies. Their eyes are probably useless as they live in burrows deep underground and have virtually no reason ever to go onto the surface into the light of day. 

They are also unique because they are the only “cold blooded” mammal. They cannot regulate their body temperature. Scientists have discovered that these unusual creatures do not have the chemical called substance P, a neurotransmitter, that allows most animals to feel pain caused by acids. To date, this unique little creature is the only known land animal without this ability. The lack of substance P may have to do with the lifestyle that God created for this animal.

The Naked Mole Rat lives in large colonies of between 75-80 individuals with some having up to 300 members. They have a “eusocial” life style, that is, one that is more like an ant colony with a queen, a couple of breeding males, and workers. The queen does the breeding and the workers do everything else. These colonies dig tunnels looking for food, which are underground tubers. The process to dig out the tunnel is called “chain digging,” with the lead digger using its sharp teeth like spades and breaking off the soil in front of it and then kicking the dirt back to another animal behind it who kicks it on to another. So it goes until a “volcanoer” kicks the dirt out a small opening at the surface, making a cone shaped “volcano” of dirt. These tunnels have nesting chambers for living and breeding, feeding areas where food is found, toilet chambers for waste elimination, as well as travel tubes that connect the major areas in the colony. These tunnels can stretch over several hundred square yards and be up to 2 to 3 miles in total length.

The lack of the substance P, which is needed to detect acids on the skin, may be a very necessary design feature. In these underground tunnels, the amount of carbon dioxide builds up to a very high level. To compensate for this, the naked mole rat’s lungs are much more sensitive to oxygen, absorbing it much faster than other animals would. This high carbon dioxide level will also lead to a high amount of carbonic acid when the carbon dioxide is dissolved in water. This would cause great pain in the creature if it had the ability to feel this pain caused by the acids on the skin. The cold-bloodedness seems to be necessary to help it survive on very little food when none is available. Because they are cold-blooded, they can lower their body metabolism by 25%, thereby needing less food but having the side benefit of helping them have life spans that, for a rodent, are almost “Methuselah-like,” with some captive specimens living 30 years.

The Naked Mole Rat is an amazing creature designed by God for living in a most unusual and difficult environment, with features found in no other animals, but perfectly planned for living its life. Indeed, God shows His glory and majesty by the things He created. –Rt 1, Box 116A, Belington, WV 26250. (304) 823 2776

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