Cat Brooks (catbrooks) wrote in wtf_nature,
Cat Brooks
catbrooks
wtf_nature

Marsupial Mole


The two species of marsupial moles are rare and poorly understood burrowing mammals of the deserts of Western Australia.

Marsupial moles spend most of their time underground, coming to the surface only occasionally, probably mostly after rains. They are blind, their eyes having become reduced to vestigial lenses under the skin, and they have no external ears, just a pair of tiny holes hidden under thick hair. They do not dig permanent burrows, filling the tunnel in behind them as they move.



The head is cone-shaped, with a leathery shield over the muzzle, the body tubular, the tail a short, bald stub. They are between 12 and 16 cm long, weigh 40 to 60 grams, and are uniformly covered in fairly short, very fine pale cream to white hair with an iridescent golden sheen. Their pouch has evolved to face backwards so that it does not fill with sand, and contains just two teats, so that the animal cannot bear more than two young at a time.


The limbs are very short, with reduced digits. The forefeet have two large, flat, claws on the third and fourth digits, which are used to excavate soil in front of the animal. The hindfeet are flattened, and bear three small claws; these feet are used to push soil behind the animal as it digs. In a feature unique to this animal, the neck vertebrae are fused to give the head greater rigidity during digging.



Marsupial moles provide a remarkable example of convergent evolution, with moles generally, and with the golden moles of Africa in particular. Although only related to other moles in that they are all mammals, the external similarity is an extraordinary reflection of the similar evolutionary paths they have followed.

(golden mole picture above)



Video of one burrowing into the sand


Something that lives in Australia that is actually completely harmless!
Tags: marsupial, mole
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