A De Winton's golden mole. A member of the species hadn't been definitely seen since 1936. Image Credit: JP Le Roux

Animals South Africa9. January 2024

“Extinct” Golden Mole, Spotted!

The De Winton’s golden mole, which was thought to be extinct, has been identified along the coast of South Africa, and conservation efforts are underway to protect the elusive blind mammal’s survival.

“Though many people doubted that De Winton’s golden mole was still out there, I had good faith that the species had not yet gone extinct,” explains Cobus Theron, co-author of the study.

Not recorded since 1936, the De Winton is one of 21 species of golden mole, of which ten are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Widespread yet not necessarily abundant, this species was identified as critically endangered and possibly extinct. It was identified thanks to eDNA – or environmental DNA found in genetic material such as feces, mucus, skin, hair, and carcasses – and a border collie trained to lie down when it smells a species of known golden mole. The eDNA data confirmed the presence of four species of golden mole, allowing researchers to map the areas they occupy since diamond mining represents a threat to the De Winton’s golden mole.

Smithsonian Magazine

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