“Star-nosed moles” were mentioned in a Richard Wilbur poem I posted recently and I thought some might like to know what these unusual creatures are. But after locating what I thought was the best photo available, I hesitated to put the photo in the same post as the poem; I guess we all have our borderline between “unusual, marvelous” and “grotesque, repugnant” and I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the poem. [Count yourself fortunate if your appreciation of a lofty redwood is not reduced but enhanced by understanding something about the channels that carry water from roots to crown, and sugars and amino acids from leaves to other parts.]
I have to admit that the star-nosed mole does look a bit like a horror-movie alien in this head-on shot: the star-like part is composed of highly sensitive appendages for detecting, evaluating, and grabbing tiny prey in the total darkness of mole-land.
Long claws for digging, and 22 appendages ringing the nose in a star-like pattern: it’s a star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata).
Picture from livescience
The Vanderbilt University site has an account of research on just how fast this mole is at detecting, accepting, and devouring his tiny earthworms and other prey (choose “Nature’s fastest forager” from the Story Map menu) and a great short video of a mole emerging to snatch up a hapless worm (choose “Star-nosed mole theater” – “Mole snatch-and-run”).