Skip to main content
Email Print Share

Imagine That! -- "Star-Nosed Moles Reach Out"

Imagine That!
Audio Play Audio

Imagine That! -- "Star-Nosed Moles Reach Out"

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

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!

Imagine That!

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

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.