Posted by Nelson Crandall
 
 
 
Guest Speaker Dr. Robin McFarland
 
 
 
At our November 4th meeting, Cabrillo College faculty member Dr. Robin McFarland gave a fascinating presentation on the most peculiar of topics: naked mole rats.
 
 
Which of these words is most off-putting? Naked? Rat? Naked rat? Are there naked more rats in Santa Cruz? What could we expect from this odd subject matter?
 
As a young academic, Dr. McFarland spent some time as part of a team studying these odd creatures in South Africa before going on to obtain her doctorate from the University of Washington. (At this mention, Kelly stood up and pumped his fist.)
 
In a nutshell, here’s what to know about these creatures that live their lives underground, fearing only snakes: The species is 30 million years old, one of the most successful on the planet.
 
Naked mole rats are one of only two mammal species that organize themselves like bees: with a queen, a few male consorts, and a cooperative society of sterile workers. The other species is also a kind of mole rat.
 
Naked mole rats don’t age the way humans do. They live their lives free of most indicators of aging, then rapidly decline and die. They are of immense interest to those who study the aging process. Just Google naked mole rats. You will be surprised at the number of hits.
 
After obtaining her doctorate at UDub, Robin was invited to join the faculty at UCSC studying the bones of chimpanzees and other apes. Two tidbits stood out from this portion of her talk: Dr. Jane Goodall, while researching primates in the wild, would bury deceased apes in wire cages that would allow worms and insects to strip the bones clean, then ship them in immaculate condition to Dr. McFarland’s team at UCSC for analysis.
 
Most chimpanzees in the wild suffer multiple fractures during their lives. The cause? Falling from trees. Thank you, Doctor, for a most entertaining and memorable presentation. Your students of anatomy and physiology at Cabrillo are fortunate to have you.