There are a lot of animals in nature that can dig underground. However, the most famous excavator known since childhood is the mole. This mammal spends most of its life underground, which is facilitated by the special body structure and physical capabilities of the mole. This is a unique creation of nature, which brings both unconditional benefits and quite serious harm to humans.
The origin of the species and description
The mole is a very small animal with tiny eyes and strong paws that are able to break through long underground passages. The eyes of some varieties of moles are securely hidden under the skin. Moles do not have ears, they have smooth, very soft fur. The coat color is usually black, but there are also animals with a dark gray coat.
Moles belong to the order of insectivores, which belong to a large class of mammals. They are part of the mole family — lat. Talpidae. The animals got their name for a reason. In the literal sense, the word “mole” means “digger”. The name comes from the word “dig, dig”.
These underground inhabitants can lay passages hundreds of meters long. Under the soil, the beast arranges a sleeping place for itself, makes special corridors in which it hunts. Moles prefer to spend the night on moss, grass or leaves. They are quite intelligent animals, so in the “bedroom” they always provide a secret passage for retreat in case of danger. The underground passage is covered with bedding.
An interesting fact: The constant movement along narrow earthen passages is reflected in the appearance of the animal. Gradually, the mole erases its fur, remaining completely bald. However, nature has provided for everything – 3-4 times a year, moles grow a new “fur coat”.
Moles also equip their dwelling with additional passages to the water source. Some animals create their own underground wells. Wells fill with water during heavy rains. In winter, such animals prefer to hide deep in the ground. At great depths, the ground remains warm and does not freeze.
Appearance and features
The main feature of these small animals is the lack of vision. If for humans and other animals the lack of vision is a serious defect, then for moles it is considered the norm and even a necessity. With normal eyes, these animals simply would not be able to spend almost their entire lives underground. Moles have eyes, but in most species they are additionally protected by a layer of skin.
Not only the organs of vision are completely adjusted to the underground life. Hearing organs are also adapted to it. Moles do not have ears. This is also not just provided by nature. If the auricles were, then too high pressure would form in them. Such pressure would not allow the animal to be in the soil.
Diggers have very pleasant to the touch fur. It also has some features, different from the fur of other animals. The fur covering of moles can easily fit in different directions. This property allows animals to slip into narrow underground tunnels without problems. The color of the fur cover is usually black, brown or dark gray.
The appearance of moles can be characterized by the following parameters:
- The total length of the animal is about sixteen centimeters. Of these, the body occupies about seven centimeters, and the rest is the length of the head and tail.
- The average weight of the animal is fifteen grams. However, representatives of the family and larger sizes are known. For example, scientists met the Ussuri mohera, whose length is twenty-one centimeters.
- The shape of the body of this mammal is bar-shaped. Moles have a tiny head and an almost invisible neck. The auricles of most members of the family are undeveloped, while others are very small, covered with hair. Animals also have a nose in the form of a small proboscis. It has sensitive hairs. Nostrils pointing forward.
- The paws of a mammal have five fingers. They are the main tool for digging long tunnels. Paws are strong, clawed. The brushes resemble spades, they are turned with the palms outward. The mole digs tunnels with its front paws, its back paws & # 8212; less strong. They are very thin and resemble the legs of rats.
Where does the mole live?
Representatives of the mole family widespread. They live throughout Eurasia, North America. In South America, moles are completely absent. Scientists have concluded that these animals inhabited North America when it was separated from the South Strait. Especially in large numbers, moles live in Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova.
In particular, four species of moles live in Russia:
- Blind. It is distributed from Ciscaucasia to Transcaucasia. Representatives of this species can often be found in Turkey and even in Northern Iran. The animal lives in mountains, alpine meadows, sometimes found in forest landscapes. For life, blind moles choose loose, moist soils. Sometimes these animals live together with the Caucasian species;
- Caucasian. It settles in the central, western parts of the Caucasus, is found in some areas of Turkey, which are adjacent to the shores of the Black Sea. Caucasian moles live mainly in broad-leaved forests, but in small numbers they are found in mountain meadow biotopes. In search of food, such animals can go to a depth of one meter. The main passages are located close enough to the surface – at a distance of five centimeters;
- Altaic. It has a monochromatic coat color, on the belly the coat casts a matte finish. The appearance of Altai moles is fully consistent with moles. The body of the animal is quite massive, rounded;
- Ordinary. This is the group of the most common moles. Its representatives can be found in various landscapes: from forests to mountains.
For a normal life, reproduction, moles need special conditions. For this reason, they choose an area with moist soil. It is most suitable for digging tunnels. The landscape of the area can be almost any. The climate of the animals prefer temperate.
What does a mole eat?
Moles, although small, are quite voracious animals. They are active around the clock, but hunt more often at dusk. Animals have a high metabolism. In summer, moles eat in large quantities, and in winter, the diet and amount of food eaten are slightly reduced. Animals prefer to live and hunt alone, but sometimes there are also members of the family living in groups.
The main part of the diet of moles is occupied by earthworms. Their mammals eat them in the summer and lay them off for the winter, biting off the heads of the worms, paralyzing them. Also, moles eat earthworm larvae, click beetle larvae, May and other varieties of beetles. Often, flies, caterpillars, slugs get into the food of the mole.
The largest representatives of the mole family, mogers, prefer to eat butterfly caterpillars. Starfish eat small aquatic inhabitants. They can eat crustaceans, small fish and insects. American shrew moles include plant foods in their diet.
Interesting fact: A tiny mole can eat a huge amount of food per day. The animal absorbs food, the weight of which is equal to the weight of the animal itself. Also, these mammals are quite thrifty. A mole in its nest can store about two kilograms of food for a “rainy” day.
In one day, the number of meals can be up to six times. After each hearty meal, the mole falls asleep sweetly. The duration of sleep is usually four hours. It is during this period of time that food has time to be completely digested. Animals are not used to starving. Without food, they can live no longer than seventeen hours.
To find a fresh treat. moles do not have to dig new moves every time. They find food in old tunnels, into which the worms crawl on their own. Worms are attracted due to the warmth and the special smell of moles. In winter, members of the family also do not have to starve. Earthworms are no less active. They are able to make moves even in frozen ground.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Almost the entire life of a mole passes in complete darkness. They build incredible labyrinths in which they then live and hunt. Labyrinths can occur at different depths in the ground. Digging takes the animal a lot of time. Above the passages, which are located close to the surface of the earth, you can always notice a characteristic roller. The depth of the labyrinths depends on the type of soil. If it is loose, wet, the passages are made at a shallow depth, in dry soil, channels are dug at a depth of twenty centimeters.
The deepest tunnels are broken by animals under forest paths. There are also nests at great depths. On average, females build nests at a depth of 1.5 meters. The nest is carefully lined with grass and leaves. Animals can roam from time to time in the area where they live. In the summer they descend to the lowlands, in the spring – to the hills. In spring, mole males can expand their possessions several times. This is due to the search for a female for breeding.
The nature of moles is contradictory. They are grumpy, quarrelsome. Very rarely animals live in a group. In pairs, they unite only when the time comes for the mating season. Moles show friendliness only at a young age. Young individuals caress each other. But with the process of growing up, not the best qualities begin to appear – grumpiness, pugnacity.
Adults often arrange fights if they meet each other on the way. They are able to ruthlessly bite the opponent. It is not surprising that in captivity, members of the family eat the meat of their relatives with great appetite. Also, moles do not have sympathy. If their neighbor gets into trouble or dies, then help is not expected. Moles quickly occupy the tunnels of the dead animal and use it for their own purposes.
Social structure and reproduction
Representatives of the mole family breed once a year.
However, the number of moles and the breeding period differs for different species:
- The Siberian breeds in June. However, offspring appear only a year later, in the spring. On average, pregnancy lasts about two hundred and seventy days. At one time, the female gives birth to no more than six cubs;
- Caucasian prefers to mate in February, and already in March, moles appear. At one time, no more than three cubs are obtained. The brood becomes independent within forty days after birth. Representatives of this species multiply their number very quickly, because offspring appear very deep underground. Nothing threatens him;
- The European mates in the spring – during March and April. Forty days after meeting the male, the female gives birth to moles – about nine individuals at a time. The weight of one cub, as a rule, does not exceed two grams;
- Blind. It breeds in February, the gestation period is one month. The female gives birth to about five at a time.
Interesting fact: The lifespan of a mole depends on its species. On average, members of the family live from three to five years.
Natural enemies of moles
Representatives of the mole family have few natural enemies. They can only suffer from birds of prey, wild boars, badgers, martens. Such animals die more often from an arid climate, too high moisture, or at the hands of the person himself. People kill animals intentionally or accidentally. Some try to catch the mole and domesticate it. But such an undertaking also ends with the death of the animal.
Also, a small number of adults die from the paws of their relatives. Adult moles are quarrelsome and pugnacious, so fights between them are not uncommon. Fights usually end with the death of one of the brawlers.
Interesting fact: Moles have no natural enemies, only underground. If the animal does not climb the surface of the earth, then nothing threatens it.
Population and species status
Moles are quite common everywhere. They are not classified as protected species. The population of these animals causes the least concern. Moles bring both benefit and harm to humans. They positively change the structure of the earth, fertilize it, make the soil structure loose. Also, the animals effectively exterminate harmful insects.
On the other hand, moles are pests for gardening and horticulture. They often damage the root system of plants. For this reason, a person is forced to fight moles with the help of poison, sound repellers and other means.
Representatives of the mole family are very common underground inhabitants throughout Eurasia and North America. These animals spend most of their existence in the soil, where they live, feed and reproduce. The population of these animals today is stable, the mole does not cause concern among scientists.