Star-nose mole blows bubbles under water

Star-nosed Mole with this circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy tentacles at the end of the snout sniffs underwater. These tennacles are used to touch and they blow bubbles and re-inhale them to smell their food. Biologist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, US found out that they have poor vision but a keen sense of smell underwater so they can find theri food- worms, insects and mollusks and crustaceans.

“It lives in wet boggy areas. Star-nose is a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. It digs shallow surface tunnels for foraging; often with an underwater exit. It is active day and night and remains active in winter, when it has been observed tunneling through the snow and swimming in ice-covered streams…

To be certain that the moles could smell while swimming, he tested their ability to follow a scent trail under water. The biologist smeared the scent of an earthworm across a sheet of Plexiglas and then placed this at the bottom of the water tank.

He also covered the Plexiglas with a wire mesh to prevent the mole from using the odd-shaped fleshy appendages around its nose to touch the trail. Watch a slow-motion video of a star-nosed mole sniffing an underwater scent trail through a wire mesh using air bubbles, here (mp4 format).

The five star-nosed moles followed the underwater scent trail with 85% accuracy, on average. When the mesh was replaced with one that had openings too small to allow air bubbles to pass through, the moles lost their ability to follow the trail.”
Adults are 15 to 20 cm or about 8 inches in length, weigh about 55 g, or about 2 oz. and have 44 teeth.


Roxanne Khamsi – NewScientist.com news service
top image courtesy of Image: Kenneth Catania

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10834-starnosed-mole-can-sniff-underwater-videos-reveal.html
Journal: Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature4441024a)

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1 Comment

  1. September 14, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    [...] What is that thing? D’oh, it’s a star-nosed mole blowing bubbles Photo via Nature’s Crusaders [...]


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