Friday, July 13, 2007

hot critter: star-nosed mole

I may be about to launch a new feature here on the blog: hot critter. This is because I am now officially in love with the star-nosed mole after having a minor encounter with it this week at work.


hello, my name is condylura cristata

The star-nosed mole is amazing. It has a sense of touch beyond what we humans can even imagine. The “star” around its nose is actually a group of 22 super-sensitive tentacles. The tentacles are incredibly efficient at detecting food. A recent study found that it takes a star-nosed mole less than 1/4 second to detect, identify, and eat a piece of food – that’s half the time it takes a human driver to hit the brake after recognizing danger. The tentacles can touch something like 12 objects per second as the mole navigates its environment. The star-nosed mole detects 14 times as many edible organisms as its closest cousin, the eastern mole, in the same amount of time.

This means that the mole is incredibly efficient at gathering small food. It beats out all its competitors, like eastern moles, hairy-tail moles, shrews and voles, at gobbling up the tiny edible delicacies (like larvae – yum) that are so abundant in their marshy habitat. And they can even find food underwater!

The star-nosed mole is also the only semi-aquatic mole species in North America. They live in swamps and marshes and are great swimmers, but since they paddle with both right legs, then both left legs, they swim with a zig-zag motion. They can also follow a scent trail underwater to find food. Check out this slow-motion video of a star-nosed mole sniffing through underwater air bubbles.

Here in North Carolina, the star-nosed mole is listed as a “Species of Special Concern” due to its dwindling numbers, especially in the east (thank you, habitat destruction). Next time you’re out in a swampy marsh, be sure to say hello.

And if you see Madonna cruising London with a pet star-nosed mole sticking out of her handbag, you'll know you heard it here first: hot critter.

10 comments:

  1. hello,

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  2. that's one cool, hot critter. what was your minor encounter? happy saturday f. pea! xo

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  3. Ha! Hi there,
    I have to say, your little Star-Nosed Mole picture thoroughly creeped me out! I thought it was something from the Sci-Fi channel! I'd never seen a mole like this guy before. How did you get him to sit still and "smile"?! Did you scream a little when you spotted him?
    (I wonder if he's got a picture of you on his laptop down in his tunnel, with what you looked like when he stumbled upon YOU! Sharing details of the "Female Human" with his friends!)

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  4. Sorry to disappoint - it's a photo I swiped from the internet. Next time I will remember to credit nature.com!

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  5. i love how educational your blog is. But that little guy freaked me out!

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  6. I'm glad I had already seen a picture of that mole before! Did you almost pee your pants when you saw it? ;)

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  7. too CUTE! have you ever touched the nose? i wonder what it feels like??

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  8. so damn cute!!!
    i am with you...
    it is meant
    to be a felted creature!!!
    xo

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  9. wow. an incredible creature! and so cute :)

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  10. Moles are lovely, and star-nosed moles are the best! They aren't rodents, though... No relation, honest.

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