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Facebook Friends: Ukraine: Sandy Mole Rat (Spalax arenarius)

Posted on Jan 30, 2014 by in Rodents, Theme Weeks | 4 comments

Spalax arenarius, the sandy mole rat

Number 0451

It’s been a while, mammals! But I’m back with more appreciation for the people from the now 17 countries who have liked the Daily Mammal on Facebook. Today’s mammal comes from a country that’s much in the news now: Ukraine, where citizens have been protesting, taking over government buildings, and becoming involved in violent clashes with security forces for more than two months now following their president’s move away from a path to joining the EU and move toward Russia, as well as the passage of a stringent anti-protest law. The prime minister and cabinet have resigned, much of the anti-protest law has been taken back, and the president has mysteriously checked himself into the hospital.

Meanwhile, the sandy mole rat continues his life along the lower banks of the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine, a part of the very divided country that tends to be linguistically, ethnically, and politically aligned with Russia. That’s the only place in the world the endangered sandy mole rat lives. It doesn’t have external openings for its eyes, but it does have small vestigial eyes under its skin. It digs with its big teeth, “the whole head acting as a bulldozer blade,” according to Walker’s Mammal’s of the World.

Spalax arenarius on Ukrainian coinWhile some endangered species are threatened by deforestation, this one is threatened by its opposite, afforestation, which happens when forests grown where they weren’t before, in this case in the sands where the mole rat lives.

The species was featured on a Ukrainian two hryvni coin as part of a series of the flora and fauna of Ukraine. Another mammal I could have featured for Ukraine, if I hadn’t already drawn it, is the horse. Some experts think the horse was first domesticated in Ukraine, perhaps as many as 6,000 years ago.

Here is a lovely piece by the important Ukrainian (and Ukrainian nationalist) composer Mykola Lysenko, who died in 1912. It’s played by his granddaughter, Rada Lysenko.



  1. The Daily Mammal is back! And better than ever!

    This little guy looks like he means business! I love the composition and his pose. I can’t tell if he’s smiling for the camera or about to take a bite outta me!

    After all the stories of animals endangered by deforestation, this one is endangered by encroaching forest. What? Yikes, we can never win!

    • Thanks, Ted! I’m glad you like the drawing. I think he would have the same expression no matter what his intention, poor guy. I know, afforestation was new to me, too, and it does seem like we can’t win.

  2. Great drawing as always and nice music. The grin reminds me of our Yorkie, Zeke.

    • Thank you! It reminded me of something, and I couldn’t think what it was, but I think it’s Zeke, all right!

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