NATURAL HISTORY (6/00) Ė Some researchers believe that the 11 pairs of pink fleshy appendages ringing the snout of the star-nosed mole detect electric fields. It is a tactile sensory organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, called Eimerís organs. The star, less than Ĺ" in diameter, contains 100,000 large nerve fibers, compared to 17,000 fibers found in the human hand. Significantly more cerebral brain tissues are associated with the central appendages of the star than with the peripheral ones. This effectively puts most of itís brain capacity in use when the prey is closest to capture (having similar brain capacity for its peripheral appendages would by necessity require a gigantic brain). During embryonic development, the 22 appendages begin to appear as cylinders of tissue forming around the tip of the moleís snout. A new layer of skin develops between the snout and appendages. By birth, the skin layer enables each cylinder to separate at the rear (closest to the eyes) and all the appendages swing forward to become the adult appendages.
PENNSYLVANIA WILDLIFE (JAN/FEB 2000) Ė Of the three moles that area found in Pennsylvania, the star-nosed mole is the only one with a long tail, and the only one in the world with a star-shaped nose. This nose includes 11 pink tentacles, well supplied with exceptionally touch sensitive nerves. Although individual tentacles cannot move, the "star" can rotate like a radar antenna. All moles area carnivorous and have a voracious appetite, often consuming itís own weight in food in a single day. Worms are the biggest part of their diet, along with grubs, ants, beetles, slugs and even salamanders and young rodents. In addition to the sensitive star tentacles, the mole has tactile sensitive receptors on the margins of its forepaw palms and at the sides of its prominent snout and at each eye. The eye itself is only 1/50" wide. The star-nosed molesí habitat is normally deep muds of wetlands, lake margins and swamps. The body is only 5" long, with a 3" tail. The tail acts as a winter storage area for fat; growing as much as four times its summer size. However, unlike woodchucks and bear who store brown fat on their bodies and hibernate or become dormant in winter, the star-nosed mole remains active all winter, known to tunnel through snow or been seen swimming under ice. They are excellent and capable swimmers, often hunting along the bottoms of watercourses looking for prey. It is believed that star-nosed moles live in mated pairs in the winter and break up in the spring before the female gives birth. In suitable habitats, star-nosed moles may be found at densities up to five pairs per acre. It is preyed upon by large fish in water, and owls, hawks, foxes, and domestic cats, among others on land.