Star-nosed Mole Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a short-bodied small mole found in the extreme southeastern Georgia. It appears to have a snout which the animal uses as a touch organ. There are more than 25,000 minute receptors in the mole’s snout. They have the most bizarre noses in the entire animal kingdom. The star-nosed mole is the only mole species that is found not only underwater but also underground.

Star-nosed Mole Facts

Anatomy

  • The adult mole measures 15 to 20 cm (5.9 to 7.9 in) in length and weighs up to 37 – 76 g (1.3 – 2.7 oz). They have 44 teeth in total.
  • The star-nosed mole possesses a 65 – 84 mm (2.5 – 3.3 inches) long tail.
  • The star-nosed mole is thought to be the fastest-eating mammal as it takes 120 milliseconds to consume food.
  • Moles have poor eyesight but they do possess a complex system with the help of which it can detect prey.
  • Star-nosed moles show a rare behavior in that they touch 10 to 15 different areas of grounds after every second.
  • It is one of the rarest mammals having 22 fleshy tentacle-like appendages around its nose. The nose tentacles are extremely sensitive and they are called Eimer organs.
  • The star-nosed mole is blessed with many touch receptors—unlike any other mole species.

Distribution & Habitat

  • The star-nosed mole is the native animal of the eastern North America. Unlike other talpids, the star-nosed mole is found in the Newfoundland and Quebec
  • Their range extends to North Dakota, from Atlantic Ocean west to as far as Virginia.
  • Moles live in the Appalachian Mountains.
  • They fancy living in the water-saturated soils also preferring mucky soils, steep slopes, wet bottom lands, as well as on wet areas of high ridges.
  • Star-nosed moles often build tunnels near short water bodies and these tunnels mostly run directly into the water.
  • In the southwestern Pennsylvania it makes home in habitats like silky dogwood, arrowwood, green hellebore, cattails, rushes, skunk cabbage, and wet bottom lands of alder.
  • In the northwestern Pennsylvania, they are thought to survive in red clover, orchard grass, hay meadows of timothy, and are often found breeding in the stacks of spoiled hay.
Star-nosed Mole ©www.smithsonianmag.com
Star-nosed Mole ©www.smithsonianmag.com

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • The star-nosed mole is an insectivorous mammal. It is a voracious feeder as it consumes 50% of its body weight each day.
  • The star-nosed mole is most likely to feed on mollusks, small amphibians, aquatic insects, worms, and small fish.
  • The animal is able to detect 8 different kinds of prey species within a span of only 2 seconds. Later they will search again for more prey in 227 milliseconds.
  • Star-nosed moles are expert swimmers and divers and as such they find prey right at the streams. The prey includes aquatic invertebrates such as worms, midges, larvae of caddisflies, stoneflies, and insects.
  • They supplement their diet with some crustaceans, small fish, and molluscs. In winter, star-nosed moles seem to rely more on bottom-dwelling prey because the ponds and streams freeze.
  • It also searches any prey in its tunnel system and more often than not they find grubs, earthworms and other invertebrates.
  • It is the only mole species that breeds not only underground but also in water.

Behavior

  • The mole is an excellent swimmer and is often found foraging along the bottoms of ponds and streams.
  • Like other moles, the star-nosed mole digs shallow surface tunnels underwater. There is very little information about the social behavior but it typically remains active year-round both day and night.
  • Even in winter, moles fancy making tunnels through the ice-covered streams.
  • Thanks to the star nose that allows the animal to smell underwater. This is not observed in any other mammal in fact earlier it is thought to be possible.
  • Star-nosed moles have adapted to live an aquatic life. The tail is almost one-third of the animal’s length and it is dark and scaly.
  • It spends half of the day sleeping—a behavior that is quite common in mole species.
  • Unlike most other insectivorous mammals, star-nosed mole is a social animal—it shares tunnel with other moles.
  • They are found in small colonies but males go away in spring when the young are born.
  • They dig tunnels with their forelimbs held to the side. The tunnels they dig are of two types; one is deep the other one is shallow. Male star-nosed moles dig shallow tunnels but they’re not as good as those of other mole species.
  • The deep tunnel is far more regular and a best place for rearing young, resting, and foraging during winter when the surface freezes. Sometime it goes down several meters under the ground.
  • While excavating tunnels, the star-nosed mole makes 25-cm-molehill.
  • They always build nests close to the food resources and high above the water level. Nests are lined with straw, dead leaves, and grasses. These nests are measured 15 cm (6 in) in diameter.
Star-nosed Mole ©dkphoto.photoshelter.com
Star-nosed Mole ©dkphoto.photoshelter.com

Reproductive Biology

  • They are thought to mate in the early spring or late winter with female giving birth to 4 to 7 young. The mother will rear the second young if the first one is lost but she will only rear one litter a time.
  • They have a long gestation period which lasts about 45 days.
  • They begin to breed in early spring while the young are born in May and June.
  • The newborns are 50 mm (2 in) in length and weighs up to 1.5 grams (0.05 oz.). They are completely hairless, pinkish, and naked at birth. They will have hair after 10 days.
  • Young will open their eyes 14 days after birth. They are on their own after one month. At this stage the young weighs up to 33 grams (1.5 oz.).
  • Both males and females attain maturity at 10-months age.
  • Predators of moles include great horned owls, mustelids, red-tailed hawks, domestic cats, screech owls, weasels, snakes, and several skunks.
  • The average lifespan of the star-nosed mole is 3 – 4 years in the wild.
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