Evolution & phylogeny
Moles of the World:
Asiatic shrew-like moles
Chinese long-tailed mole
New World moles
Old World Moles
There are about 30 species of moles worldwide, with North America being
home to seven. These moles are widespread in the United States and parts
of South-western and Eastern Canada. Often confused with those of gophers
and ground-squirrels (rodents), the mounds and meandering tunnel ridges
made by these animals in their constant search for food are familiar sites
to many North Americans. However, few people have more than vague ideas
concerning the nature of the creatures that inhabit them. Relatively
speaking, little is known scientifically of these fossorial mammals. In
fact, they are among the least understood components of the North American
Most moles, as commonly recognized and known to the general public, are
solitary animals that spend most of their life underground. Notable
exceptions are the desmans which are aquatic, the star-nosed mole which is
semi-aquatic, and the diminutive shrew-moles that are active foragers both
underground and on the surface. Regardless of habit, all species construct
two basic types of tunnel: deep, more permanent tunnels, and shallow
surface runways. Differences in the extent and nature of these tunnels
occur between most species. However, all mole species prefer moist soils
where burrowing is easy.
Coast mole mound
The population demography and home range sizes of moles is poorly known.
However, data suggest that the home ranges of moles may be substantially
larger than those of other fossorial mammals.
The food habits of moles have received more attention than many aspects of
their biology. The diet is highly variable among species, but in general
earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates compose the majority of the
diet. However, vegetation is known to comprise a small portion
of the diet in most species. Presumably due to the enormous costs of
excavating their numerous tunnel galleries, most moles are reported to
have a voracious appetite. In fact, one star-nosed mole was noted to
consume 1850 earthworms, three mice, one frog and two large grubs in 14
Conniff, R. 1994. The mole has a way of undermining our assumptions.
Gorman, M.L and R.D. Stone. The Natural History of Moles. Comstock
Publishing Associates. Ithaca, New York. 138pp.
van Zyll de Jong, C.G. Handbook of Canadian mammals. 1. Marsupials
and insectivores. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa 210pp.
Yates, T.L. 1983. The mole that keeps its nose clean. Natural
Yates, T.L. and R.J. Pedersen. 1982. Moles in J.A. Chapman
and G.A. Feldhamer (eds): Wild mammals of North America.
Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 37-51.