Overview

Brief Summary

Golden moles according to MammalMAP

Around 21 species of golden moles are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, with only three of these species actually occurring outside of southern Africa. The 18 southern African species can either be found in semi-dry and fynbos habitats, or indigenous forest and savannah habitats.

Golden moles are tiny burrowing mammals with streamlined-shaped bodies that can be up to 9 centimetres long – except for giant golden moles which are twice the size at around 20 centimetres! Their dense, silky fur may vary in colour from black to cinnamon-brown, with iridescent sheens of coppery gold to bronze or even green and purple. They have tough skin with wedge shaped muzzles and leathery nose pads, no external eyes and small ears covered by fur. Golden moles have short and powerful forefeet with scary pick-like claws on the third (and sometimes second) digit.

Golden moles are opportunistic insectivores that feed mainly on millipedes and earthworms they find underground.

They have a gestation period of four to six months, and give birth to one or two babies.

Ten species of golden moles are listed under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, one of which is Critically Endangered (De Winton’s golden mole). Five are listed as Endangered: Marley’s golden mole, Giant golden mole, Van Zyl’s golden mole, Gunning’s golden mole and Juliana’s golden mole. Most of these threatened species are experiencing habitat degradation as a result of human activities.

For more information on MammalMAP, visit the MammalMAP virtual museum or blog.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Reproduction

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:6
Specimens with Sequences:9
Specimens with Barcodes:6
Species:3
Species With Barcodes:3
Public Records:5
Public Species:2
Public BINs:2
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Barcode data

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Wikipedia

Golden mole

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Eukaryota

Golden moles are small, insectivorous burrowing mammals native to southern Africa. They form the family Chrysochloridae, and are taxonomically distinct from the true moles which they resemble due to convergence. The golden moles bear a remarkable resemblance to the marsupial moles of Australia, so much so that, the marsupial/placental divide notwithstanding, arguments were once made that they were related, possibly because they are very primitive placentals and because of the many mole like specializations.

Contents

Characteristics

Golden moles live almost exclusively underground, beneath grassveld, forest, swamps, deserts, or mountainous terrain. Like several other burrowing mammals with similar habits, they have short legs with powerful digging claws, very dense fur that repels dirt and moisture, and toughened skin, particularly on the head. Their eyes are non-functional and covered with skin and fur, the ears are just tiny openings, and, like the marsupial moles, they have an enlarged leather-like pad to protect their nostrils. Their primary sense is that of touch, and they are particularly sensitive to vibrations that may indicate approaching danger.[3]

They range in size from about 8 to about 20 cm. They have muscular shoulders and an enlarged third claw on the forelimbs to aid digging, with no fifth digit and vestigial first and fourth digits; the hind feet retain all five toes and are webbed to allow efficient backward shoveling of the soil loosened with the front claws. They feed on small insects, which are located with the sense of hearing. Grant's golden mole (Eremitalpa granti) can cover 6 km each night looking for food.[4]

While the desert species simply 'swim' through loose sand, all other species construct permanent burrows. The burrows are relatively complex in form, and may penetrate as far as a metre below ground. They include deep chambers for use as bolt-holes, and others as latrines. Excavated soil is pushed up to the surface as ridges or mole-hills, or is compacted into the tunnel walls. During extremely hot weather, Grant's golden mole will retreat to depths of around 50 cm and enter a state of torpor, thus conserving energy.[4]

Females give birth to one to three hairless young in a grass-lined nest within the burrow system. Breeding occurs throughout the year. The adults are solitary, and their burrowing territory may be aggressively defended from intruders, especially where resources are relatively scarce.[3]

Because these mammals were previously thought to have originated in Gondwana, golden moles used to be regarded as rather 'primitive' creatures: their low resting metabolic rate and their ability to switch off thermoregulation when inactive, however, are no longer regarded as indications that golden moles are undeveloped 'reptilian mammals', but rather as essential adaptations to a harsh climate. By going into a torpor when resting or during cold weather, they conserve energy and reduce their need for food. Similarly, they have developed particularly efficient kidneys and most species do not need to drink water at all. Like the tenrecs, they possess a cloaca, and males lack a scrotum.

Status

Of the 21 species of golden mole, no less than 11 are threatened with extinction. The primary causes are sand mining, poor agricultural practices, increasing urbanisation, and predation by domestic cats and dogs.

Classification

As with many groups, the classification of the golden moles is undergoing an upheaval at present in the light of the flood of new genetic information becoming available. They have traditionally been listed with the shrews, hedgehogs and a grab-bag of small, difficult-to-place creatures as part of the order Insectivora. Some authorities retain this classification, at least for the time being. Others group the golden moles with the tenrecs in a new order which is sometimes known as Tenrecomorpha, while others call it Afrosoricida and reserve Tenrecomorpha for the Tenrecidae family.

References

  1. ^ Bronner, Gary N.; Jenkins, Paulina D. (16 November 2005). "Order Afrosoricida (pp. 71-81)". In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). pp. 77-81. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=11100051. 
  2. ^ Savage, RJG, & Long, MR (1986). Mammal Evolution: an illustrated guide. New York: Facts on File. pp. 53. ISBN 0-8160-1194-X. 
  3. ^ a b Kuyper, Margaret (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 764–765. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  4. ^ a b Piper, Ross (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press.
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