Moles inhabit Africa, Europe, Asia, North
America, and Australia. They are voracious,
continually burrowing in the ground for
food, for a mole must eat its weight in food daily.
This is accomplished by digging approximately
twenty-five feet of burrow per hour. Mole burrows
are close to ground surfaces and can cause
surface ridges. A mole's home is also recognized
by its large, central mound of earth. This mole hill
is created from the earth dug up in the mole's
search for food. There are twelve mole genera
worldwide, five of which inhabit the United States.
Types of Moles
Moles have pointy snouts, rudimentary eyes, velvety fur, short legs, and powerful digging nails on their front legs. Moles are nearly or totally blind; however, their hearing is acute and they detect sounds from great distances. Common garden moles are six inches long with furless tails, and have huge forelegs whose broad, thick nails gouge out earth. The largest species in the United States, Scapanus townsendii, is nine inches long. Shrew moles, the smallest, are 3.5 inches long. European moles inhabit grasslands and pastures in the British Isles, continental Europe, and Asia. They dig elaborate burrows that hold central chambers with round connected galleries. Passageways radiate in all directions from galleries (for example, there will be a boltrun exit in case of danger). Each burrow has a warmly lined nest for the mole. Tunnels run from just below ground level to 2.5 feet deep and may be 170 feet long. European moles eat worms, beetle and fly larvae, and slugs. They are active day and night, alternating every four hours between digging or eating and resting, and they live alone except when mating. Golden moles inhabit grassy forests, riverbanks, mountains, and semidesert areas of Africa. The smallest species is Grant's golden mole, 2.5 inches long, and the largest species is the giant golden mole, 9 inches long. Their golden fur repels water, keeping them dry while digging. When burrowing, leathery pads cover their noses, keeping dirt out. Burrowing allows foraging for insects, larvae, earthworms, crickets, slugs, snails, and spiders. Golden moles cannot see well and find food by touch. Sometimes they come to the surface (for mating, as an example). They live alone and defend their homes when other moles- even others of their own species-intrude. Star-nosed moles, of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, are black-furred, five inches long (excluding the tail) and weigh three ounces. They live near water, swim well, and dig in soil along shorelines. They burrow day and night, foraging for earthworms, aquatic insects, fish, and mollusks. Their nose tips hold a twentytwo- tentacle, touch-sensitive star which is their main sense organ. Star-nosed moles are solitary. The Australian central desert holds the only species of marsupial mole. Their bodies range from 2.5 to 8.5 inches long, and they weigh from 0.3 to 6 ounces. Like other moles, they have short legs and front paws holding digging claws.Abare patch of skin atop each mole's nose pushes aside dirt as it digs. They have yellow fur, small nose slits, and no functioning eyes. Marsupial moles burrowin soil near rivers and grasslands in Australian desert. While burrowing, they eat moths and beetle larvae. They do not dig permanent burrows but travel widely, sleeping in temporary burrows. They are solitary and their females have marsupiums, to carry young.
Life Cycles of Moles
Life cycles are best known for the star-nosed, European, and golden moles. Male and female starnosed moles mate between February and April. The female builds a nest of leaves and moss in her burrow and has two to seven furless, blind, helpless young after a six-week gestation. They develop quickly, leave the nest in three weeks, and can mate after ten months. Male European moles enter the tunnels of females to mate. After a five-week gestation, three to seven blind, hairless young are born. The young growfur, open their eyes, and leave the nest in five weeks. European moles live for three years. Male golden moles wishing to mate can attract mates at any time of the year. Litters contain two to three hairless young. They are two inches long, blind, and weigh less than one ounce. After nursing, when they weigh about 1.5 ounces, the young leave the nest for good. Moles are considered to be pests by farmers and home gardeners, who think they eat plant roots and kill crops. However, moles never eat plants and perform a real service by killing grubs, caterpillars, and insects. Nonetheless, farmers, gardeners, and people with lawns consider them nuisances and poison them or set traps in their tunnels because they "spoil gardens and fields."
Family: Talpidae, with twelve genera and twentynine species, including Scalopus aquaticus (common garden mole), Scapanus townsendii (largest U.S. mole), Neurotrichus gobbsi (shrew mole), Talpa europaea (European mole), Condylura cristata (star-nosed mole), Notoryctes typhlops (marsupial mole)
Geographical location: Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia
Habitat: Most inhabit grasslands and pastures, though some live in freshwater
Gestational period: Two to six weeks
Life span: Three to six years
Special anatomy: Huge forelegs with broad nails; leathery pads or tentacle rings covering nasal passages
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