Whilst tramping along a path on our recent trip to Scotland, my eagle-eyed environmental biologist friend spotted an oddly wobbling pile of earth on the grass bank next to us. Upon closer inspection, we realised that the spray of soil flying out from the centre of the moving mass was being dug out by a mole, whose tunnel had brought the black velveted little beast up to the surface.
I have never seen a mole up close before and it was fascinating to watch the efforts of this small animal and its oversized forepaws as it began to bury itself back into its burrow. After a bit of research, it turns out that when they aren’t frustrating us by digging up our prized lawns, moles are pretty amazing creatures. Here are some fun facts about Mr. Moley :
- Moles are solitary creatures, meaning that when your lawn erupts in mole-hills overnight, it is actually likely to be the work of just one tiny little animal. You’ve got to admit it, however reluctantly, that that is a little bit impressive – even if the mess Moley has left behind is less so…
- Moles have two thumbs! As well as the usual thumb found on many mammals, they also have a second digit which comes from their wrist bone and can wiggle but not bend. They use their oversized forepaws to help them tunnel with the extra thumb helping to widen their paws, which its assumed helps with their tunnelling.
- Moles can tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide and can reuse the air they breathe out. Their red blood cells have adapted to carry more carbon dioxide, allowing them to live successfully underground where oxygen is limited.
- Molehills are created by the excess soil thrown up by tunnelling moles. These tunnels are used to trap worms and other small insects which fall into the tunnels and whose vibrations are felt by the mole who quickly hunts them down. Mole saliva contains a mild toxin which means the worms are paralysed and preserved alive in a ‘larder’ by the mole for snacking on later.