Summary: The Star-Nosed mole is one of nature's oddest looking creatures with a face only a mother could love.
The star-nosed mole carries one of the most intriguing stars in the universe. The fleshy appendages ringing the snout of the star-nosed mole looks like an olfactory organ gone wild, but it serves as guide and an extra hand for grasping prey or manipulating objects.
The star is an extraordinary touch organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, called Eimer's organs, with which this hamster-sized mole feels its way around. Imagine having six times the sensitivity of your entire hand concentrated in a single fingertip. ***image1***
This North American species of mole is unique in its preference for wetlands, where it digs tunnels and forages mostly in mud and water. First the mole samples an area by touching the ground. Its brain processes this information in less than a twentieth of a second and if one of the appendages detects an earthworm or other invertebrate, the mole moves its nose slightly to come in contact with the object. T
His Eimer's organs are particularly well supplied with nerves and can provide the animal with a high resolution image, enabling the mole to know whether it has encountered something good to eat or should keep searching. For small prey, the entire process from first touch to swift ingestion takes just about a fifth of a second. Talk about quick menu decisions!
Star-nosed moles continuously scan their environment with their noses, much as we constantly shift our eyes to perceive the world around us. Usually humans and most other visual mammals initially detect the important parts of a scene through peripheral vision and then shift their eyes so that the central part of the retina can provide a more detailed image. (If you're not convinced of this, try reading this sentence without moving your eyes.)