Naked Mole Rat to World: 'Who's Laughing Now?!'
Most superheroes don't get to bask in the glory of recognition from their communities; many live double lives, of course, or the public simply misunderstands their motivations. Batman doesn't get the keys to Gotham. Spider-Man doesn't always get a hero's welcome in New York.
But the amazing naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) -- an animal with a superpower immune system -- was named Vertebrate of the Year in 2013 by Science magazine. Now don't be too outraged you lost out to a mouse-sized, hairless, bucktoothed competitor. These unnerving-looking creatures very much deserve the honor.
That's because instead of immunity to radiation or injury, the naked mole rat seems to be immune to cancer [source: Poppick]. And their superpower makes them a boon to scientists desperate to know more about the disease and how it affects humans. They've already discovered that mole rats have a peculiarly heavy form of the substance hyaluronon between tissues that seems to impede the creation of tumors, and that mole rats seem to build proteins spectacularly well -- both factors that could play into why their lifespan is around 30 years, nine times longer than mice [source: Poppick].