Weird Animals - the Star-Nosed Mole

I know what you're thinking, but this is my front end!

Do you think I look more attractive from this angle?
Do you think I look more attractive from this angle?

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a small, weird-looking semi-aquatic mammal that is found in the wetlands of eastern North America ranging from Canada to Georgia. It lives in narrow underground tunnels and feeds on larva, insects, worms, crustaceans and molluscs. Because it lives in almost complete darkness, this mole is virtually blind.. So it relies mainly on its remarkable-looking star-shaped nose to locate food. Yes, that’s the mole’s nose you see in the photos, not its back end.

Let me tell you about the star-nosed mole’s most distinctive feature – you guessed it – its remarkable nose. There is a circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy, finger-like tentacles at the end of its snout which looks like a star, or more precisely, like a rosy, hot-pink lampshade with tassels. These incredibly sensitive nasal tentacles are covered with approximately 25,000 tiny touch receptors known as Eimer’s organs, which are used to identify food. The receptors got their name from Theodor Eimer, a German zoologist who first described these incredible tentacles in 1871.


The nose that feels.

This unique-looking mammal is covered in thick black-brown water-repellent fur, has large scaled hands with what look like over-sized fingers, and a long, thick tail, which functions as a fat storage reserve. Adults are 6 to 8 1/4 inches in length, weigh 1 to 2 5/8 ounces, and have 44 teeth. Its teeth are almost as strange as its nose. The incisors are very small compared to other moles and are formed like tweezers. This allows them to grasp small prey very precisely. When the mole is foraging, presumably for earthworms, its favorite food, its tentacles are constantly in motion. When it eats, however, they are clumped together out of the way.

Star-nosed moles have small, beady eyes but extremely poor eyesight. (Which may be a good thing, or how would they ever find a mate)? So they continually survey their environment by repeatedly touching the objects around them with their star-nose appendages. Researchers who timed the moles' activities found that after touching a small piece of food they took an average of 230 milliseconds to identify it as edible and eat it. That’s milliseconds, folks, thousandths of a second. A report in the journal, Nature, gives this peculiar mole the title of fastest-eating mammal.

When the outer appendages or tentacles of its nose come into contact with potential food, the mole moves its nose so that the two lower tendrils which are the most sensitive can identify the prey. The mole can touch 13 separate areas of the ground every second, and can locate and consume 8 separate prey items in under 2 seconds. Once its dinner of “fast food” has been identified, it is captured with its tweezer-like teeth.

The nose that smells.     

This mole is a good swimmer and although it digs shallow surface tunnels for foraging, often these tunnels exit under water. Its remarkable nose also possesses the ability to identify smells under water. How? It exhales air bubbles on to objects or scent trails and then inhales the bubbles to carry the smell back through its nose. This enables the star-nosed creature to decide whether something is edible with incredible speed. The Guinness Book of Records identifies this amazing mole as the world’s fastest forager, and also with the ability to “sniff out” food under water.

With a face like theirs, these moles might seem to be in danger of scaring away all their food. But these bizarre-looking creatures can detect a snack and gulp it down all under a quarter of a second. As fast as some species of fish.

The latest research reveals that the mole’s star-nose is a tactile organ more than six times as super-sensitive as a human hand, but it also has something in common with eyes. Scientists are comparing the waving of the star-nose-tentacles to the visual tracking of an animal eyeball. In other words, this is a nose that not only feels and smells but sees.


The nose that sees.

Humans, like most animals that rely primarily on sight, continually shift their eyes. When an interesting or important image enters our peripheral vision, we instinctively shift our eyes to move the image into the central part of the retina (fovea).

Similarly, star-nosed moles continually wave their nose tentacles around. When something of potential interest is detected, such as an unfortunate earthworm, then the mole moves its nose quickly to bring one of the central tendrils into contact, giving it a superior tactile image of the object so it can determine whether it is something good to eat. For small prey the entire process from first touch to complete ingestion takes about a fifth of a second.

Addenda. Adept at burrowing on land, the star-nose mole is also a powerful swimmer and spends much of its time behaving like a fish. It propels itself in water, even under ice, by moving its feet and tail in unison. It is more dependent on water during winter, when the frozen ground makes obtaining its usual foods difficult. While swimming, the mole blocks its nostrils with its multi-tasking star-nose.

The star-nosed mole mates in late winter or early spring, and the female has one litter of 4 or 5 young in late spring or early summer. At birth, each offspring is hairless and weighs less than ½ ounce. Their eyes, ears, and star are all sealed, only opening and becoming useful approximately 14 days after birth. The young develop rapidly and leave the nest to hunt for themselves after three to four weeks. They are fully mature after 10 months. Predators they must avoid include the red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, skunks, and even large fish.

One more anomalous fact: unlike the rest of the animal kingdom which follow a logical outward or sprouting strategy when it comes to growing limbs, the star-nosed mole’s 22 tentacles do not extend or poke out from its face at birth but take a reverse approach. The moles are born with a swollen nose ridge that eventually comes loose at the back, extruding the stringy nose-tendrils contained within so that they spring out and curl forward.

The star-nosed mole may be weird and more funny-looking than any other . . . . But it’s amazing and astonishing, and beautiful – to its mother.

© Copyright BJ Rakow 2010, 2012. All rights reserved.

B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." This serious and comprehensive job search book is written in a light-hearted fashion.

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Comments for the Star-Nosed Mole 45 comments

kally 6 years ago

There so weird yet so interesting... don't ya think?


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, kally, nice to meet you. I definitely agree with you. The star nosed mole is one of the weirdest creatures I have ever written about but extremely interesting with that one-of-a-kind nose.

You might also be interested in reading my other Weird Animal hubs on very weird animals including the naked mole rat, dung beetle, aye-aye, anglerfish, blobfish and proboscis monkey.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Awesome! I love learning more about animals!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, habee, for the "awesome." I agree. Learning and writing about weird animals (and people) is one of my favorite awesome pastimes.


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

Wow, yes this is definitely on the strange side of the spectrum. Makes me wanna go out and dig in my yard to see what little creatures are lurking there! Ok, well maybe not, it was but a fleeting thought.

You come up with the GREATEST stuff!!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, susie. Yes, the star-nosed mole is definitely on the strange side of the animal spectrum with the most unique nose this side of the proboscis monkey (another weird hub subject).

Thank you for the visit and the comment. You, m'dear, come up with the GREATEST comments!

And please don't dig up your yard unless you possess a guaranteed Treasure Map. In which case I am willing to come by and help you.


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

Treasure map? Hmmm, nope don't have one of those. Lots of clay though, we some clay, some sand, and some darned good dark dirt for which to grow a lovely garden.. Lucky for us when the health dept. guy came to 'perk' us for water, he didn't give up after one hole. They use some of the strangest words for the purpose of putting in a drain field!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

I love this animal you know. I remember seeing a photo and thinking how beautiful. Of course we the so-called higher functioning have decided to hate how we look - but animals like this - they know they are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this lovely creature with us.

Rated up! I hope I come across one of these!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

How nice to see you here, Bk, and great to know you are a weird animal lover. I must admit I hadn't really thought of the star-nosed mole as beautiful, just weird. But come to think of it, I'm sure they are beautiful to their mates.

Sharing it has been my pleasure; thank you for the up rating. Don't forget to take a look at the Dung Beetle and the Proboscis Monkey among the other weird animal hubs I've written.


ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 6 years ago

drbj,

I just noticed the time, but I have to say before I go to sleep, that I laughed as soon as I saw the caption for that first picture. I will definitely be back to read this!

~AC :)


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for dropping by, AC. Enjoy this hub. I just noticed that I directed you to the wrong mole - happens all the time.

The hub I was referring to where I wrote in the first person as if the mole rate was speaking is Weird Animals - the Naked Mole Rat. Think you will enjoy that one, too. It's one of my favorites in the weird genre.


ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 6 years ago

drbj,

I'm sure I will enjoy it, anyways, and when I'm done, I will check out the mole rat too!

....That mole sure is interesting. I feel bad for him and his crazy sense of smell. My nose is too sensitive too, and I always have sinus infections and allergies. I bet the little guy always has a cold! :(

Here is another example of how fun it is to learn something new by reading one of your hubs. Great writing!


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Thanks, AC, delighted you enjoyed reading about this distinctive looking star nosed mole and his unique appendage - nose, that is. If this mole caught cold and it interfered with his ability to smell, he would starve.

Thank you, too, for your worthy comments. You and your visits are always appreciated.


sarah 6 years ago

why do the mole have star


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, sarah. To answer your question. The mole have star given by the teacher for good behavior. Oops, wrong kind of star.

This species of moles has a nose that looks like a star but also feels, smells, eats and sees.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for a fascinating hub. I think all animals are interesting, even the weird (by human standards) creatures like the star-nosed mole. I loved your information and the photos.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Nice to meet you, AliciaC. You are spot on - all animals are interesting in different ways. Especially those I label as weird since they are so remarkably different.

Thank you for visiting and loving this info and photos. Take a look at the other 9 hubs on weird animals and let me know what you think.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

What a nose - fascinating and I have never heard of this one before. I did fleetingly watch a science rogram recently where the researcher attempted to navigate tunnels like a mole and was astounded how much navigational and motion sensing abilities moles have ! The star nosed mole must be higher up the evolutionary ladder with its super-conk.

You drbj must have a nose that feels, sees, and sniffs out these wonderful hub ideas... but I am sure your nose is beautiful to look at too!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Delighted, Docmo, you had a chance to meet this remarkable creature with its powerful sensory nose - it is unbelievable, isn't it? And the star-nosed mole isn't the only fascinating mole. Wait till you read about its cousin, the naked mole rat who is far more sociable - with others of its ilk, that is.

Now however did you learn about MY otherworldly nose? Thank you for the smashing olfactory comments.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

drjb, what a fantastic informative hub well presented enhanced by the photographs. It is a creature I had never heard of. You learn something new every day. Rated up.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, D.A.L., how lovely to have you drop by. Thank you for enjoying the star nosed mole. He/she was a mystery to me, too, before I began my research. Now I'm sorta fond of the little creature - so unique and unusual. Happy to provide you with some new info. Thanks for the up.


Tankadin profile image

Tankadin 5 years ago

Great hub. What an amazing animal! I can't believe I have not hear of this before. You have some really interesting hubs and topics. I'll be back!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Tankadin, thanks for finding and enjoying the weird star nosed mole. He thanks you, too. By all means take a look at his other weird compatriots and let me know what you think.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Drjb, this is absolutely amazing! Thanks to this evergreen article I will hence forward know the difference between exotic plants and star-nose moles in my garden. But if I ever see a real star-nose mole, I will surely run. A bite with 44 teeth must be awfully painful.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

I agree, Martie, the star nosed mole is one of the most amazing animals I've yet found with a nose that rivals all our human senses. Thank you for finding and enjoying his story.

If you should ever meet, the mole will probably run the other way first but it's good not to take chances with anyone or anything that has more teeth than you do. Heh, heh.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

WOW!!!!

Never heard of or seen the likes of it! I'd ask, "where do you find these things?" But I'm not going to, I'm afraid of the answer!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Yo, Wesman - the Star Nosed Mole is a bit eccentric and not your run-of-the-mill ordinary animal but one of my favorites.

I cannot divulge my sources. If I tell you, I will have to kill you. Heh, heh. Thanks for the visit.


JasonPLittleton profile image

JasonPLittleton 5 years ago

What a strange creature! I mean I haven't seen that before. Thanks for the knowledge here.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you for visiting, Jason. Yes, the star nosed mole is rather strange and definitely qualified to be called a weird animal.

Sharing this knowledge with you is my distinct pleasure. Take a look at some of my other weird animal hubs and let me know what you think.


Bobby Macmillan 5 years ago

Wow these are some cool pictures, i wish i had one as a pet!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Bobby - yes, the star nosed mole is a cool weird animal. I don't know if you would want to care for it as a pet though since it likes being underground in mud and you would have to feed it a daily diet of plump, juicy earthworms.

Thanks for the visit.


SilverGenes 5 years ago

This explains so much - I have seen only one of these little creatures (at least I think it was one of these) when it was left at my door as a 'gift'. No greater description necessary. I had no idea which end was which and it remained a mystery until now. You know, if you wrote school textbooks there would be no skipping school!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

What a lovely remark, Alexandra, that if I 'wrote school textbooks there would be no skipping school.' You touched me with that one, m'luv.

Not surprised that you didn't know which end was which - did you ever learn who gave you that awesome gift, and was it alive, alive-o?

So happy I solved the mystery for you. If you are as intrigued by weird fish, take a look at my "Interview with Anglerfish" - another very weird creature.


SilverGenes 5 years ago

Haha yes, it was my furry family member (the quaduped) who left that for me and now I am off to read about weird and wonderful fish :)


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, my dear, for clarifying that it was the quadruped furry family member. And not the charming biped model.


wanzulfikri profile image

wanzulfikri 5 years ago from Malaysia

Another weird and fascinating creature. I want to see one in front of my own eyes one day. Thanks for the hub.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for the visit, my friend. It will be much easier to see this weird animal with your own eyes than the Anglerfish since it is found along much of the eastern U.S. coast. That unique fish lives in the deepest depths of the ocean.


Ivona Poyntz profile image

Ivona Poyntz 4 years ago from UK

Amazing: Just when i think I've seen it all, and I do like my national geographic, theres always something out there which is a testament to nature's versatility.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Ivona. You are so right. There are so many amazing creatures in our world that testify to the creativity and versatility of nature. Thank you for finding this and the 'amazing.'


precy anza profile image

precy anza 4 years ago from San Diego

Lol. That first caption right there made me laughed, because I really thought it was... you know. Interesting ^.^'


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Aha, precy, Gotcha! Don't be alarmed. Most people think the same when first encountering this weird interesting creature with a front end that looks like it should be its back end.


heather 4 years ago

i just found one of these in my pool ,dead..if they are good swimmers how would that happen?


WTH? 4 years ago

hi drbj the most weirdist animals look like they been edited don't ya think. Pokémon pictures in real life is toataly fake check it out it's pretty cool as well :) plz answer Cya!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Dear heather, so sorry you found a deceased star-nosed mole in your swimming pool. They are excellent swimmers so the one you found may have been injured by a predator like a hawk or a skunk and sought safety in your pool. Hope you gave the poor thing a decent funeral.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, WTH? - fascinating name. I think I may have met a relative of yours - WTF? You are absolutely correct. The star-nosed mole is one of the weirdest creatures I have ever seen. And it is NOT edited. It is simply very peculiar looking. Thanks for stopping by. You might like to take a look, too, at "Weird Animals - the Naked Mole Rat" - another very strange looking critter. See ya.

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