The moles, shrew moles, and desmans are all members of the Talpidae family and are found only in northern North America and Eurasia. These mostly burrowing insectivores (29 species in 12 genera) are extremely cryptic and, as a result of their lifestyle, have received little research. To date, the species that has garnered the most interest from naturalists and biologists alike is the European mole (Talpa europaea), whose lifestyle and activities are likely very similar to those of many other members of this genus.
Mole specialised for a subterranean, fossorial lifestyle. Their long, spade-like forelimbs have evolved into highly effective digging organs and are attached to muscular shoulders and a deep chestbone. The skin on the chest is thicker than on the rest of the body because it bears the majority of the mole's weight as it digs or sleeps. Behind the massive shoulders, the body is nearly cylindrical, tapering slightly to narrow hips, with short robust hindlimbs (which are not particularly well suited for digging) and a short club-shaped tail that is normally borne upright.
In the majority of mammals, both pairs of limbs have an additional bone that raises the surface area of the feet, provides additional protection in the hindlimbs, and assists the forelimbs in moving the ground. The elongated head tapers to a hairless, fleshy pink snout with a high sensory ability. This organ carries 22 tentacles, each of which contains thousands of sensory organs, in the North American star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata).
How Do Mole Burrows Form?
The burrow of a mole is sometimes mistaken. Moles do not dig continuously or in search of food. Other than that, the tunnel system, which serves as the resident animal's permanent home, serves as a food trap, continuously accumulating invertebrate prey such as earthworms and insect larvae. Invertebrates fall into the animal's burrow as they pass through the soil column and sometimes do not escape before being spotted by the vigilant, patrolling resident mole.
Once prey is found, it is quickly apprehended and decapitated in the case of an earthworm. The worm is then drawn forward by the forefeet's teeth, squeezing out any grit and sand that might otherwise cause excessive tooth wear—one of the most common causes of death in moles.
When a mole senses an unexpected abundance of prey, it will attempt to catch as many as possible, storing them in a centralised cache that is normally well-defended. This cache, which is always placed near the mole's single nest, is packed into the soil to keep the earthworms alive but dormant for many months. Thus, if an animal faces a food shortage, it can quickly raid this larder rather than depleting vital body reserves searching for scarce prey. Moles tend to be extremely selective when it comes to selecting certain prey for the shop, usually choosing only the largest prey available.
How Do Mole Tunnels Get Constructed?
Tunnel building and maintenance consume a large portion of a mole's available time. Throughout the year, a mole digs vigorously, but once it has developed its burrow system, there may be little evidence of the mole's existence above ground. Moles build a complex network of burrows that are usually multi-tiered. When a mole starts excavating a network of tunnels. It usually begins with a relatively straight exploratory tunnel of up to 20 metres (22 yards) in length before branching off. This is most likely an attempt to find nearby animals while also constructing a food trap for later use. Subsequently, the tunnels are lengthened and several additional tunnels are built underneath these preliminary burrows. This tier-tunnel system will result in one animal's burrows overlying those of its neighbours without the burrows being physically connected. However, in an existing community, numerous tunnels bind neighbouring animals.
The Navigational Sensitivity of the Mole
Moles have an excellent sense of direction and often build their tunnels in the exact same location each year.
Current tunnels in permanent pastures may be used by several generations of moles. Certain animals may be evicted from their tunnels as a result of an invasion by a stronger animal; in such cases, the loser must flee and create a new tunnel system.
These master builders are intimately acquainted with every inch of their own territory and are wary of any modifications to a tunnel, making them difficult to apprehend. If the usual path to the nest or feeding area is blocked, for example, a mole will dig around or under the obstruction, rejoining the original tunnel with minimal digging.
Our understanding of the sensory environment of moles is rudimentary. They are exclusively fossorial animals, with small eyes obscured by thick fur or, in the case of the blind mole Talpa caeca, by skin. Shrew moles, on the other hand, forage not only underground in caves but also above ground in leal litter. Although they may have a more acute sense of vision than other animals, they are more likely to perceive shadows than to rely heavily on vision for prey detection or orientation.
Almost all animals seem to lack ears due to the absence of external ear flaps and the dense fur covering the ear opening. However, it has been proposed that ultrasonic communication could be a critical mode of communication for fossorial and nocturnal animals. However, of all the sensory means available, olfaction appears to be the most important—a fact confirmed by the elaborate nasal region of many species and the battalion of sensory organs contained inside.
Season of Reproduction
Since females are only receptive for 24 to 48 hours during the breeding season, it is a hectic time for moles. Males typically abandon their regular pattern of behaviour and activity during this period, devoting significant time and energy to finding potential mates. Mating occurs within the female's burrow system, and this is the only time that the sexes are not aggressive against one another.
Four weeks later, the young are born in the nest, with an average of three per litter. The pink, naked infants weigh less than 4 grammes (ounce) and are unable to regulate their body temperature, relying on their mother for warmth. For the first month, the young are exclusively fed milk, after which they quickly gain weight. Juveniles remain in the nest chamber until they are approximately five weeks old, at which point they begin making brief exploratory forays in the immediate vicinity of the nest chamber. They will soon follow their mother on more extensive explorations of the burrow system and will disperse on their own; those who remain will be quickly evicted by the mother.
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