Did you know that the star-nosed mole has been spotted capturing and eating its target in as short an amount of time as 225 milliseconds – making it one of the speediest foragers in the entire animal kingdom?
Also known as Condylura Cristata, the star-nosed mole is named after the astoundingly fleshy star-shaped ending that surrounds the base of its nostrils, containing 22 pink tentacles. Typically measuring 15 cm or 6 inches long, it has short legs, a stocky build and is relatively hairless, with fur that can range from pinky-grey to black-brown.
Native to eastern North America, the star-nosed mole primarily feeds on insects and is aided in its hunt by its unusual nose. Its amazing appendage is not the only astounding thing about this unique mammal – as it also has high dexterity, which is what lets it snatch up potential prey, like worms and small insects in a split second.
This remarkable little mole can be found in wet, lowland areas like swamps, bogs and marshes, where it digs complex, interconnected tunnels. The tunnels it constructs let it breed in safety, far away from predators, as well as forage for food. Its unusual snout is there for good reason, as it lets the mole hunt underground with amazing precision, due to it being packed with over 100,000 tiny sensory receptors, known as Eimer’s organs.
Similar to the touch receptors in humans, they allow the mole to detect subtle shifts in its habitat, like temperature and pressure – and give it an unprecedented amount of tactile awareness. This astonishing adaptation is crucial to the star-nosed mole’s survival – as it can decode a wealth of sensory data in mere milliseconds. Having this ability gives it an amazingly precise perception of its surroundings and lets it create complex sensory maps in just a fraction of a second!
Star-nosed moles are well-accustomed to water and are brilliant swimmers, with the ability to dive underwater for long periods of time. Their paddle-like feet and partially webbed toes aid in propelling them quickly- and they can smell underwater too, which lets them hunt down aquatic prey in submerged environments.
When it comes to the social stuff, the star-nosed mole generally prefers its own company, though it does mix more during breeding season. It usually mates in late winter or in early spring, with the female of the species producing litters of between 3-7 young, after gestating for 45 days. Young star-nosed moles will stay with their mother for a few weeks, before venturing out on their own to establish their territories and marking them with complicated scent trails.
This astounding creature isn’t currently on the endangered list but sadly, habitat loss caused by human pressures like pollution and climate change could pose a future threat to its existence. When it comes to conservation efforts, it’s still flagged as a species classified as “not of concern” but hopefully there will be measures to combat any potential threats to its existence.
We hope the star-nosed mole does stick around because we’re sure this remarkable mammal will fascinate scientists and nature enthusiasts alike, for years to come, especially as this little creature is such an incredible testament to nature’s ability to adapt and thrive.