Skin morphology and its role in thermoregulation in mole-rats, Heterocephalus glaber and Cryptomys hottentotus

T. Joseph M. Daly, Rochelle Buffenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

The skin structure of 2 Bathyergid rodents, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) and the common mole-rat (Cryptomys hottentotus) is compared, to investigate whether thermoregulatory differences may be attributed to different skin features. Histological and ultrastructural studies of the dorsal skin of these closely related species show morphological and structural similarities but differences in the degree of skin folding, thickness of the integument and dermal infrastructure were evident. The skin of the common mole-rat conforms with expected morphological/histological arrangements that are commonly found in mammalian skin. Many features of the skin of the naked mole-rat, such as the lack of an insulating layer and the loosely folded morphological arrangement contribute to poikilothermic responses to changing temperatures of this mammal. Further evidence for poikilothermy in the naked mole-rat is indicated by the presence of pigment containing cells in the dermis, rather than the epidermis, as commonly occurs in homeotherms. Lack of fur is compensated by a thicker epidermal layer and a marked reduction in sweat glands. Differences in skin morphology thus contribute substantially to the different thermoregulatory abilities of the 2 Bathyergids. The skin morphology is related to the poor thermoinsulatory ability of the animals while simultaneously facilitating heat transfer from the environment to the animal by thigmothermy and/or other behavioural means.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-502
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Volume193
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998

Keywords

  • Common mole-rat
  • Ectothermia
  • Epidermis
  • Homeothermia
  • Naked mole-rat
  • Poikilothermia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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