Friday, April 20, 2012

Giant Golden Mole

Chrysospalax trevelyani
Oh Classification, you can be so confusing, and so contentious! Moles. Burrowing, insectivorous animals that have tiny or no eyes and giant claws. You'd think they'd all be closely related, right? Nope. There are actually True Moles, Marsupial Moles, and Golden Moles. They all belong to completely different orders and are examples of what convergent evolution can do!

Today's animal, the Giant Golden Mole is (unsurprisingly) one of the Golden Moles. This group of 21 species is found only in southern Africa, and the Giant itself is endemic to the nation of South Africa. They belong to the same Order as the Tenrecs, which itself is part of that odd hodgepodge Superorder known as Afrotheria. That's right, the Giant Golden Mole is technically more related to Manatees and Elephants than it is to the True Moles. Weird how that all works out!

Giant Golden Moles are not, in fact, golden. Their fur is a dark brown. They have powerful front claws and shovel-like back claws that let them scoop out dirt behind them white digging, and they have no external eyes or ears... though they do have a weird leathery pad that protects their nostrils while they dig. In short, they are very well adapted to living underground. Though interestingly, they don't live exclusively under the earth like others of their type; at night they forage for insects and other invertebrates inside of the surface leaf litter! Giant Golden Moles also have the distinction of being the only Golden Mole with any real semblance of a social structure. While they are mostly solitary, they have been observed hibernating in groups.

Giant Golden Moles are becoming quite rare, and are extinct in many localities. They need to live in very specific habitats, namely forested areas with deep leaf litter, soft soil, and a generous amount of undergrowth. Artificial forests and farmlands will not do for these little guys, and as a result they are losing their habitat and becoming incredibly fragmented. There are currently no specific conservation actions underway for the Giant Golden Mole, though they may occur in a few protected reserve areas.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : South Africa
Size : Body length up to 9in (23cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Afrosoricida
Family : Chrysochloridae -- Genus : Chrysospalax -- Species : C. trevelyani

1 comment:

  1. Gosh! I knew about Golden Moles but I had no idea there was one that wasn't actually golden. It looks even more like a normal mole.

    Blog is looking great, by the way!


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