Star-Nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

Star-nosed mole crawling through leaf litter

(http://www.arkive.org/star-nosed-mole/condylura-cristata/)

  • Name: Star-Nosed Mole
  • Latin: Condylura cristata
  • Classification: Mammal
  • Origin: North America
  • Lifespan: 3-4 years

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
  • Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
  • Class: Mammalia (mammals)
  • Order: Soricomorpha (‘shrew-form’)
  • Family: Talpidae (small, insectivorous mammals)
  • Genus: Condylura (star-nosed mole)
  • Species: Condylura cristata (star-nosed mole)

Apperance

  • Length: 19mm (7n6in) on average
  • Weight: 50g (1.8oz) on average

The prominent characteristic of the star-nosed mole is the ring of fleshy tentacles that surrounds the nostrils. The nasal disc is symmetrical with 11 projections on either side. This mole also has a scaly tail, covered with short, coarse hairs which are the length of the head and body combined. It is thought the tail is used as a fat storage organ as it has been observed being large before winter and skinnier at the beginning of spring.

The star-nosed mole has small eyes with blackish-brown fur. It has short limbs and its forepaws are large and paddle-like with stout claws.

Relatives

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  • Hairy tailed mole (Parascalops brewen) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Gansu mole (Scapanulus oweni) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Japanese shrew mole (Urotrichus talpodides) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Short-faced mole (Scaptochirus moschatus) -LEAST CONCERN-

Habitat & Distribution

The star-nosed mole prefers to reside in damp or saturated soils and can often be found in organic mud adjacent to a body of water. They can be found in grassy meadows, marshes, swamps, deciduous, coniferous and mixed woodlands.

The range of the star-nosed mole stretches from south-eastern Manitoba to Labrador and Nova Scotia, south and east to south-eastern Georgia.

Map showing the distribution of the Star-nosed mole taxa

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Star-nosed_Mole)

Diet

The star-nosed mole mainly feeds on terrestrial invertebrates and animals such as worms, beetles, ants, larvae, slugs and even salamanders, young snakes and nesting mice. These animals are encountered while the mole tunnels, using the tentacles on its peculiar nose to find them. The star-nosed mole will also hunt aquatic prey when it has access to a body of water such as caddisfly, midge larvae, small fish and occasionally crustaceans and molluscs. Aquatic prey makes up 30% of this moles diet.

Behaviour

Star-nosed moles are active during the day and night and also during the winter and have been observed tunnelling through snow. They are suspected to be colonial although little is known about their social behaviour. These moles dig shallow tunnels which are used for foraging which often exit underwater. The star-nosed mole uses its broad front feet to dig and has an excavation rate of 2-3m (7-8ft) an hour.

They are good swimmers and often hunt aquatic invertebrates. They frequently break surface for breath as they can only stay submerged for around 10 seconds. When alarmed, these moles can run short distances of speeds of up to 6.4-8km (4-5m) per hour. They spend about half of each 24 hour period asleep or resting, curled upright with their head bent under their forelimbs.

Little is known about how these animals communicate, although large external ear openings suggest a role for vocal signals. Their vision is poor and is thought that tactile and chemical means are their most likely method of communication. They have glands on their throat, wrist, chin and abdomen which are most active during the breeding season and tend to leave a golden stain on the fur.

Reproduction

A male and female star-nosed mole will pair together in the autumn and remain with each other until and throughout the breeding season which lasts from March to April. It is unknown how these moles attract mates but it is though that the glands on their abdomens, chins and wrists which are most active during this time have something to do with it. One litter of between 3 and 7 young (average of 5) are produced between April and June after a gestation period of around 45 days.

The young are born hairless, with their eyes and ears closed and their nose tentacles folded back along their snout. The eyes and ears become functional after 2 weeks and the young become fully independent at 3 weeks of age. Star-nosed moles reach maturity at 10 months.

Adaptations

  • The star-nosed mole has 22 fleshy tentacles surrounding its nose which are 6 times as sensitive as a human hand and have the ability to pick up on the electrical signals given off by its prey. It can catch and eat prey in 230 milliseconds (half the time it takes to blink).
  • The blackish brown fur of the star-nosed mole absorbs heat and keeps the animal warm while tunnelling through snow in the winter. It is also water repellent which aids the mole when hunting for its aquatic dietary supplements.
  • The large tail is thought to act as a fat storage organ as it is fat at the beginning of winter and becomes skinny when spring occurs. This stored fat would supply the mole with energy during the winter when food resources are low.
  • The star-nosed mole also has large forepaws with thick claws which it uses to shift dirt and mud around while tunnelling and foraging.

Threats

The only human threat to this mole is being caught in underground traps set by gardeners who want to prevent the mole making molehills in their gardens. The star-nosed mole is, however, largely predated by raptors, owls, skunks, weasels, foxes and pike.

Conservation

  • IUCN Status: Least Concern

The range of the star-nosed mole includes several protected areas throughout North America and is also protected under wetland umbrella species.

Fun Facts

  • Male: Boar
  • Female: Sow
  • Young: Pup
  • Group: Labour, Company, Movement
  • The Guinness Book of World Records states that the star-nosed mole is the world’s fastest hunter.
  • They hunt and eat their prey so fast; the human eye cannot follow it.
  • The nose and the tentacles surrounding it are six times as sensitive as a human hand.

References

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