Washington, D.C., has been in the throes of an indisputably ugly, often viscous power struggle for months now. But, at long last, we seem to have reached a tenuous peace: the Smithsonian National Zoo’s naked mole-rat colony has finally chosen their one true queen.
DCist reports that four mole-rats have died since the battle began. “Yeah, they’ve been fighting and killing each other,” zookeeper Kenton Kearns said. “They have mole-rat wars to determine who’s going to be the queen or who’s going to breed with the queen. We’re hoping things will calm down a little bit now.”
Mole-rats are one of the only mammals to live in colonies like bees, in which there is one breeding queen and several workers. The National Zoo officially learned who this colony’s queen was when she gave birth to three pups, though it wasn’t a complete surprise ahead of time.
“It was the mole-rat we expected,” says Kenton Kearns, zookeeper at the National Zoo and mole-rat expert. Over the last several weeks, Kearns says, the queen’s nipples had grown significantly, increasing suspicions that she was the Chosen One. “There was also some movement under the skin in the back end of her body, which looked like it could maybe be babies,” Kearns says.
The queen will then continue to breed, and can give birth to litters of up to 30 pups at a time.
If you’re interested in keeping up with the colony, the National Zoo is running a 24-hour, all naked all the time mole-rat cam.