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Star-nosed Mole Facts

Sonia Nair
One of those bizarre-looking animals, a star-nosed mole is a type of mole that is usually found in eastern Canada and north-eastern United States. Read on to know more about these animals.
You might have heard of moles, that are mammals belonging to the family Talpidae. They are small invertebrates with cylindrical, furry bodies. These burrowing mammals live underground, but some mole species are found to be semiaquatic. One such mole species is Condylura cristata, which is commonly known as star-nosed mole.
In fact, Condylura cristata is the single species of the genus Condylura in Talpidae family. This mammal belongs to the tribe Condylurini  and is the sole member of this tribe too. Their eyes are barely visible due to the dense fur and so, these moles are mostly considered blind.
Though, very little is known about the functionality of their ears and eyes, their tentacles have an amazing sensory mechanism.
Do you remember the animal character named 'Speckles', in the movie G-Force? It is the animated version of a star-nosed mole. From the name of the animal, we can infer that it is a type of mole. As seen in most of the other mole species, they too have round, furry bodies.
But what makes them different is the tentacles on their snout. These pink, fleshy appendages are arranged in a circular fashion and hence the name. Shown below is an illustration of the star-shaped tentacles that are located around the nostrils on the snout of this amazing animal.
Star-shaped Tentacles: These moles have a unique snout that has 22 tentacles (11 on each side of the snout tip), which are pink and fleshy in appearance.
One interesting fact about star-nosed moles is that their tentacles are not formed during the embryo stage, but are split open from the snout, two to three weeks after birth. As a newborn, this animal has only bumps on its snout. These appendages are used to cover the nasal openings, while digging soil, so as to prevent soil from entering the nostrils.
"I have the most beautiful nose with 22 tentacles. That's why I am a★ nosed mole!"
According to some researchers, these tentacles are used to sense the electrical activity in potential prey, while the mole forages. These tentacles have more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, which are known as Eimer's organs. Star-nosed moles have long whiskers that are found behind the tentacles. These whiskers also have a sensation of touch.
The small pair of tentacles that are found in the lower middle portion of the snout are said to be the most sensitive ones. Though, star-nosed moles search for food (while digging) with other tentacles, they eat the food, only after touching it with this smallest pair on the lower middle part of the snout tip.
The tentacles are supplied with more than 1,00,000 nerve fibers and the eleventh pair on the lower middle part is said to have a major chunk of the nerve endings.
According to latest studies, these animals take only a few milliseconds to identify and feed on a prey. This happens so fast, that it is difficult to follow the sequence with human eyes. It takes less than eight milliseconds for the brain of a star-nosed mole, to decide whether a particular substance is edible or not.
"I am proud to say that I can swim well. I make bubbles inside water to detect prey."
These sensory appendages are used to feel the surroundings and they move so fast that they can touch more than 12 objects in a second. Another interesting star-nosed mole fact is that these animals have the capacity to smell under water.
They emit air bubbles towards the direction of scent trails from a potential prey or predator. These bubbles are then inhaled, so that they can identify the prey/predator.
Other Physical Features: These moles are small animals and the average length of an adult is around 15 to 20 centimeters. An adult star-nosed mole may weigh around 50 grams. Their blackish-brown fur is very dense and water-repellent in nature. Hair on the ventral part could be light brown.
This animal has large, scaled feet, strong claws and a long thick tail. In fact, the tail length of this mole will be more than one-fourth of its body length. The tail flattens during certain seasons, when fat from food is stored in this appendage.
This is their energy storage for future use, when food becomes scarce. Their feet are broad and the forelimbs are very strong. It is difficult to distinguish the sexes in these moles.
"I love digging tunnels and make molehills. After all, I am a mole!"
Habitat and Distribution: They are normally found in the wet lowland areas of eastern Canada and the northeast regions of the United States. Some of these animals have been sighted along the Atlantic coast and some parts of Georgia. As mentioned earlier, star-nosed mole habitat includes wet lowland areas.
It can be found in both coniferous and deciduous forests, wet meadows, marshes and peatlands. These animals are most often seen near water sources like streams, lakes and ponds, where they search for food. In some rare cases, these moles are sighted in dry meadows too.
With their hairless foot and large, strong claws, these moles are adapted to dig soft, wet soil (the padded feet of these animals help them to swim too). These animals are found to dig a network of tunnels that may sometimes lead to water bodies. While shallow tunnels are usually made for foraging, deeper ones offer them protection from predators.
The soil that is dug out (while making tunnels), is thrown out of the entrance, thereby forming small mounts that are referred to as 'molehills.' Nests are made inside these tunnels; usually beneath some protective structure, like rocks and logs.
"I don't understand why some people call me the fastest-eating mammal. What's so great about eating fast?"
Feeding Habits: These moles are good swimmers. They propel themselves in water, by moving their feet and tail. The water-repellent fur is one of the star-nosed mole adaptations, which help them in their aquatic life. Foraging involves both land and water. They burrow through soil for worms and small invertebrates.
The most preferred food of these animals is earthworm. They also search for food along the bottom of rivers and streams and feed on aquatic insects, insect larvae, mollusks, leeches and small fish. The tentacles with sensory receptors help them in locating food.
These tentacles move constantly as the animal searches for food, but, as it starts feeding, these appendages clump together, so that they do not disrupt feeding. The star-nosed mole is said to be the fastest-eating mammal, as they take less than 120 milliseconds to identify and consume their food. This animal has 44 teeth, that are adapted to hold the prey.
"Mom says that as a newborn, I was hairless and my tentacles were like small bumps."
Behavior: They are found to be active during day and night, throughout the year. Though, little is known about the social life of these animals, they are believed to be colonial and are said to share the tunnels with other members of the group. It has been observed that mothers are assisted by other members, for raising the young ones.
They are said to be monogamous, throughout a mating season. These animals mate during the months of March and April and female star-nosed moles breed once a year. The gestation period is 45 days and a litter may comprise two to seven offspring. The young ones are weaned within 30 to 35 days and after that, they separate from the mother.
During the time of birth, their eyes and tentacles are not open and functional for at least two weeks. Newborns are hairless and weigh around 1.5 grams. It takes around ten months for the young ones to get matured. It is believed that the average lifespan of a star-nosed mole is around two to four years.
The above said is only a brief overview about the amazing star-nosed mole. As compared to their size, these animals are really powerful. If you are interested in knowing more about these moles, you may conduct a study, which can be surely interesting.