In marshland muck lives a creature that can hunt down food, identify it as edible, and munch it down in less than a quarter of a second!
So what is this voracious animal? Well, it's...a mole. But not just any mole, this is a star-nosed mole, sporting twenty-two tiny but unbelievably sensitive appendages around its nose. Surprisingly, they're not used for sniffing, but for super-speed touching. Like a bizarre hand, the appendages reach out and feel for food... in this mole's case, tiny insects. But with this great sensor, why the need for speed?
Catania: "If you spend a lot of time eating something, it has to have a lot of energy in it. And if you're going to eat small things that don't have much energy, you have to eat them really fast, otherwise you're just not going to get enough nutrients to survive."
That's Ken Catania, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University. His research on the star-nosed mole provides new info on the forms animals may take when faced with different challenges in their environments. Since normal moles use their tough noses to tunnel through thick soil and rocks, the star-nosed mole provides a great example of physical adaptation to its unique marshland environment.
They sure have a lot to tell us, but holy moly...they've got a face only a momma could love! I'm Eric Phillips.
"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.