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#WeirdAnimalWednesday Meet the Earthquake-Detecting Star-Nosed Mole

posted: 07/29/15
by: Danny Clemens
Star-nosed mole
gordonramsaysubmissions via Flickr

No, those aren't little fingers on its face -- instead, the star-nosed mole is equipped with 22 small, fleshy tentacles that contain more than 25,000 small sensory receptors, known as Eimer's organs. Some scientists think that the mole's Eimer's organs could be sensitive enough to detect minute seismic waves.

The sensory receptors also serve another, more obvious purpose. Because the star-nosed mole lives in dark underground tunnels, its hypersensitive Eimer's organs compensate for its poorly developed eyesight, allowing the mole to sniff out prey remarkably quickly.

Star-nosed mole via USNPS

Guinness World Records recently distinguished the star-nosed mole as the world's fastest forager, according to ScienceBlogs: the moles can identify prey in as little as a quarter of a second.

According to PBS, the star-nosed mole uses its keen sense of smell to hunt underwater. The mole blows between 5 and 10 bubbles per second, which it then immediately sucks back through its nostrils. Biologists believe that the bubbles come into contact with prey, absorbing odorant molecules that signify the presence of a possible meal.

Endemic to eastern North America, the star-nosed mole is scientifically known as Condylura cristata. It plays an important role in wetland ecosystems, according to the University of Michigan: its underground tunnels help funnel oxygen to root systems that may otherwise not have access to nutrients.

Check out last week's #WeirdAnimalWednesday: the sea bunny

Learn more about animals:

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