Rangers look for tiny footprints in the sand and dig trenches to find the moles, which spend most of their lives underground. Photo Credit: Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa via Facebook

Animals Australia17. April 2024

Rare Gem: Blind Mole Spotted Twice in Six Months!

A second blind mole has been spotted in six months, an unusual sighting of the species endemic to Australia. This finding helps biologists better understand the small and elusive animal.

The northern marsupial mole – or Notoryctes caurinus – needs very little oxygen to survive and can get by by just “breathing the air that flows between sand grains,” explains Joe Benshemesh, a biologist with the National Malleefowl Recovery Group. “While their unusual form of locomotion is slow and laborious, they also seem tuned to a frugal life and save energy and resources by allowing their body temperature to reflect that of the surrounding sand as if they were reptiles.”

The Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa Martu rangers took pictures of the mole called “kakarratul” by the Martu, the traditional owners of a large swath of central Western Australia. The tiny species – it measures just 15 cm and weighs between 40 and 60 grams – doesn’t have eyes but a stubby tail, a short snout, triangular claws on its front feet, and soft fur. Typically seen five to ten times per decade as the mole comes to the surface during periods of cool and rainy weather, wildlife biologists have a hard time learning about the animal and its population size. The strange-looking animal – often mistaken for a baby guinea pig – burrows as deep as 2.5 meters below the surface.

Smithsonian Magazine

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