Holey Moley!

Grant’s golden mole, or Eremitalpa granti, is perhaps one of the most adorable animals I have ever come across! From its silky smooth sheen, to its barely-there eyes, down to its cute little snout used for ‘swimming’ their way through the sand – doesn’t this prompt everyone to say, “Awww”!

Grant’s golden moles are nocturnal creatures of the desert. These moles often create shallow grooves to the desert sand; because the sand is too fine and loose, the moles are thought to “swim” through the desert surface when travelling or foraging at night. This is why it is sometimes called a sand fish (HowStuffWorks.com, 2008). The reason for such behaviour is thought to arise out of dipping their heads and shoulders into the sand when looking for prey, hence creating the shallow grooves. Observers have associated such head-dipping behaviour with the perception of seismic vibrations made by prey (Matthew J. Mason & Peter M. Narins, 2002). Such behaviour is typical and unique to Grant’s golden moles living in the desert areas.

This swimming behaviour is aided by its physical traits:

  • It has poorly developed eyes that prevent sand from getting in the way of its vision (and is hence considered mostly blind)
  • Its external ear is only a simple orifice hidden under its fur
  • (Mason & Narins, 2002)

  • A leathery flap over its snout prevents dust particles from entering the nostrils, and also helps it to push its way through the sand
  • Its powerful limb muscles and curved claws enable better “swimming”
  • (Piper, 2007)

    With regards to foraging, it is suggested that these creatures locate their prey (termites, geckos, and some invertebrates) via seismic activity in the sand (Mason & Narins, 2002). The middle ear is thought to be able to pick up signals from within the sand dunes, but this has not been directly examined in studies before. Such behaviour is believed to be an adapted trait that evolved as a means of detecting ground vibrations. It is especially advantageous for golden moles because it makes up for the limited visibility and poor propagation of airborne sounds in the desert, thereby finding preys more efficiently.

    HowStuffWorks.com. (2008, April 22). “Mole”. Retrieved March 30, 2010, from HowStuffWorks.com: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/mole-info.htm/printable

    Matthew J. Mason & Peter M. Narins. (2002). Seismic Sensitivity in the Desert Golden Mole (Eremitalpa granti): A Review. Journal of Comparative Psychology , 158-163.

    Piper, R. (2007). Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.

    “The Golden Mole,” by globalzoo. Youtube Channel, 23 Jun 2009. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV3KkpCkjy4&feature=player_embedded (accessed on 31 Mar 2009).

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