Chordates • Earth.com

Star-nosed mole

(Condylura cristata)

galery

Description

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a small mole found in moist, low areas in the northern parts of North America. It is the only member of the tribe having a touch organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, known as Eimer's organs, with which this hamster-sized mole feels its way around. With the help of its Eimer's organs, it may be perfectly poised to detect seismic wave vibrations. The extremely sensitive star-like structure is covered with minute touch receptors known as Eimer's organs. The nose is about 1 cm in diameter with roughly 25,000 Eimer's organs distributed on 22 appendages. Eimer's organs were first described in the European mole in 1871 by German zoologist Theodor Eimer. Other mole species also possess Eimer's organs, though they are not as specialized or numerous as in the star-nosed mole. 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. The nasal star and dentition of this species appear to be primarily adapted to exploit extremely small prey. A report in the journal Nature gives this animal the title of fastest-eating mammal, taking as short as 120 milliseconds (average: 227 ms) to identify and consume individual food items. Its brain decides in approximately 8 ms if a prey is edible or not. This speed is at the limit of the speed of neurons. These moles are also able to smell underwater, accomplished by exhaling air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then inhaling the bubbles to carry scents back through the nose. The star-nosed mole lives in wet lowland areas and eats small invertebrates such as aquatic insects (such as the larvae of caddisflies, midges, dragonflies, damselflies, crane flies, horseflies, predaceous diving beetles, and stoneflies), terrestrial insects, worms (such as earthworms, leeches, and other annelids), mollusks, and aquatic crustaceans, as well as small amphibians and small fish. Condylura cristata has also been found in dry meadows farther away from water. They have also been found in the Great Smoky Mountains as high as 1,676 meters. However, the star-nose mole does prefer wet, poorly drained areas and marshes. it is a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds.

Taxonomic tree:

Domain:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:
Class: Mammalia
Order:Soricomorpha
Family:Talpidae
Genus:Condylura
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