July 12, 2008
The Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata) is a small mole found in in eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States. It is the only member of the tribe Condylurini and the genus Condylura.
The Star-nosed mole lives in wet lowland areas and eats small invertebrates, worms, insects and mollusks. The mole is a good swimmer and can also forage along the bottom of streams and ponds. The mole digs shallow tunnels that it can use to forage for food.
The Star-nosed mole is covered in a thick black/brown water repellent fur, has large scaled feet and a long thick tail. It is the mole nose though which is it’s most distinctive feature, it has a circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy tentacles at the end of the snout, which is used to identify food by touch.
“The incredibly sensitive nasal tentacles are covered with almost one hundred thousand minute touch receptors known as Eimer’s organs. These were first described in the European Mole in 1871 by German zoologist Theodor Eimer. Other mole species also possess Eimer’s organs, though they are not as specialized or numerous as in the Star-nosed Mole. Because the Star-nosed Mole is functionally blind, it had long been suspected that the snout was used to detect electrical activity in prey animals, though there is little, if any, empirical support for this contention. It appears the nasal star and dentition of this species are primarily adapted to exploit extremely small prey items. A report in the journal Nature gives this animal the title of fastest-eating mammal, taking as short as 120 milliseconds (average: 227 milliseconds) to identify and consume individual food items. Its brain decides in the ultra short time of 8 ms if a prey is comestible or not. This speed is at the limit of the speed of neurons. They also possess the ability to smell underwater. It is done by exhaling air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then inhaling the bubbles to carry the smell back through the nose.”
“The star of tentacles is formed in a unique way so far not seen other places in the animal world. Instead of growing in the same way fingers grow outward on a hand, they start as swellings on the face around the nose, and some days after birth they break free and move forward in the same way a banana is peeled.”
The Star-nosed mole is just one of the many amazing, yet not so well known creatures that inhabit this world, we will from time to time be showing more of these amazing inhabitants of this place we call home.
Website: Star-Nosed Mole