Star-nosed mole Definition
The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a small, unique mammal known for its distinctive snout, which resembles a star-shaped appendage.
Star-nosed mole General Characteristics & Facts
The star-nosed mole has a compact body with a length of about 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inches) and weighs around 55 grams (2 ounces). Its most distinctive feature is the star-shaped pink fleshy appendage on its snout, which consists of 22 fleshy, hairless tentacles.
Range and Habitat
Star-nosed moles are native to eastern North America and can be found in wet lowland areas, marshes, and along streams and lakeshores. They prefer habitats with moist soils that allow for easy burrowing.
The star-shaped nose of this mole is highly specialized and covered in thousands of tiny sensory receptors called Eimer’s organs. These organs are extremely sensitive to touch and help the mole navigate and locate prey in dark, underwater environments.
Star-nosed moles are carnivorous and primarily feed on small invertebrates such as worms, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Using their sensitive nose, they can locate and consume prey rapidly, with the ability to identify and capture food in less than a quarter of a second.
These moles are excellent diggers and spend much of their time underground. They construct complex tunnel systems with multiple chambers for nesting, storing food, and avoiding predators. Their powerful forelimbs, equipped with long claws, enable efficient burrowing through soil.
Lifestyle and Behavior
Star-nosed moles are solitary animals and typically defend a relatively small territory. They are active year-round, including during winter when they create tunnels beneath the snow. They are primarily nocturnal but can also be active during the day.
The gestation period lasts for about 45 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of around 4 to 7 hairless and blind pups. The young open their eyes at around 14 days and are weaned around 30 days old.
While star-nosed moles do not have good vision, they use various vocalizations, scents, and touch-based communication to interact with each other. Their tactile sense is highly developed, and they often touch and explore their surroundings using their sensitive nose.
Star-nosed moles face threats from predators such as owls, hawks, foxes, raccoons, and larger mammals. Their underground lifestyle provides some protection, but they are still vulnerable when venturing above ground.
Star-nosed moles are listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, habitat loss and degradation due to human activities, including drainage of wetlands, can pose a threat to their populations.
Physical Characteristics of Star-nosed
- Star-Like Nose: The most prominent and recognizable feature of the star-nosed mole is its nose. It is adorned with 22 fleshy, pink tentacles arranged in a circular pattern, resembling a star. These tentacles are highly sensitive and packed with sensory receptors, allowing the mole to detect touch, vibrations, and chemical cues in its environment.
- Body Size: Star-nosed moles are small mammals, measuring about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) in length, excluding the tail. They typically weigh between 1.5 and 3.5 ounces (40 to 100 grams), making them relatively lightweight.
- Fur: Star-nosed moles have dense, velvety fur that is dark brown or black in color. The fur helps insulate their bodies and provides protection while burrowing underground.
- Body Shape: The star-nosed mole has a stocky and cylindrical body, well-adapted for a burrowing lifestyle. It has powerful forelimbs with large, curved claws designed for digging through soil and creating tunnels.
- Eyes: Star-nosed moles have small, inconspicuous eyes located on the sides of their head. Their eyesight is relatively poor, and they primarily rely on their other senses, particularly touch and smell, to navigate their environment.
- Tail: The mole has a short, sparsely-haired tail, measuring about 1.5 to 3 inches (4 to 8 centimeters) in length. The tail helps with balance and serves as a prop while maneuvering through tunnels.
- Teeth: Like other moles, the star-nosed mole possesses sharp, pointed teeth for capturing and consuming prey. They have strong jaws that enable them to chew through their insect and invertebrate prey.
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Scientific Classification of Star-nosed
Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)
Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Order: Eulipotyphla (formerly Insectivora)
Family: Talpidae (Moles)
Species: Condylura crista
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What does a Star-nosed mole Eat?
- Aquatic Invertebrates
- Larvae and Grubs
- Small Vertebrates
Does a star-nosed mole have a nose?
Most noses detect smells. The star-nosed mole’s nose is more important for its sense of touch.
Can a star-nosed mole detect electrical activity?
Because the star-nosed mole is functionally blind, the snout was long suspected to be used to detect electrical activity in prey animals, though little, if any, empirical support has been found for this hypothesis.