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Naked and Not

Two species of mole rats run complex societies underground

On his first trip into Namibia, Chris Faulkes woke up in his tent with a peculiar kink in his back. The ground beneath him had been flat enough when he went to sleep. Yet the next morning, "there was a whopping great lump," he says. A mound of dirt had arisen under Faulkes. He'd inadvertently found—or been found by—Damaraland mole rats, the very creatures he'd come to study. With one of the oddest social systems yet found in mammals, these sub-Saharan rodents spend their lives in networks of underground tunnels that they continually excavate.

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