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North Carolina Week: Star-Nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

Posted on Jan 28, 2008 by in Other Orders, Theme Weeks | 11 comments

Condylura cristata
Number 0111

Continuing with the mammals of North Carolina theme, allow me to introduce you to the star-nosed mole. This fascinating fellow, as you cannot but help to notice, has 22 finger-like appendages on the end of his snout. Star-nosed moles use their “stars” to touch and sense their surroundings, as well as to cover their nostrils when they’re burrowing, keeping dirt out.

The appendages that make up the star are hairless and covered with tiny protuberances I’d never heard of called Eimer’s organs. Here’s how Animal Diversity Web describes the star-nosed mole’s Eimer organs:

Each Eimer’s organ contains 3 types of tactile receptors, 2 of which are found in the skin of other mammals. The third type is unique to the star-nosed mole and is thought to allow the mole to identify objects by their microscopic texture.

Isn’t that amazing? It can identify objects by their microscopic texture! Star-nosed moles are also semi-aquatic, and get this: they (along with water shrews and possibly other aquatic mammals) can smell underwater! Basically, they blow bubbles out their nose and into an object, then quickly inhale the bubble back again, taking in the object’s scent molecules in the process. (You can read here about how a very interesting scientist called Ken Catania figured all this out. His work with star-nosed moles actually earned him a MacArthur “genius” grant!)

Here’s an article from the website of Vanderbilt University (home of Dr. Catania) about star-nosed moles. Scroll down to the pictures near the bottom, and you’ll see three remarkable ones: a close-up view of a star-nosed mole’s nose star, an illustration that exaggerates the size of the mole’s body parts to indicate their relative importance with regard to the mole’s brain, and an image of a star-nosed mole fetus.

Take this mammal home with you!


  1. Quite a beast.

  2. Your artwork is really good. I enjoyed looking.

  3. Pretty! You’ve undertaken an amazing project…keep up the fantastic work.

  4. Just clicking around on the web looking at random blogs and am happy I found your blog..
    Vanderbilt University is here in Tennessee where I live:) Love your artwork and am happy to learn about the mole and how he feels with his star!!

  5. Would like to talk to you about a company I am working on. I think your artwork would fit in with exactly what it is that we are doing. We are a peace and world preservation company in the start up processes. We have an entire section on animals, and animal preservation and conservation. I would like to talk with you about options that you would be willing to do. Thank you and keep up the amazing work. Very impressive.

  6. This is a rather interesting creature. Its quite a journey exploring all the mammals and fascinating for you too. Just think of the knowledge base you’ll have after completing this project!

  7. I am an artist too. Acrylics are my medium. Its amazing you can post a draying each day. You are definitely talented

  8. I’m pleased that you’re giving NC a week.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the comments and feedback! Seriously, it means a whole lot.

    Bernie Berlin, you’re at the epicenter of cutting-edge star-nosed mole research! I’m jealous.

    Onlynmyeyes84, feel free to e-mail me with details about what you’re proposing (jr at

    Jeanette, I know! It’s crazy. I’ve only been doing this a few months, and already I’m amazed at how much there is to learn AND at how much my artwork is improving!

  10. This is incredible!
    YOur artwork is also incredible. And your commitment to animals is truly remarkable.

  11. The art work is mazing and the colour realy gives something to the anomals, i love the star nossed mole i think it is beautful the way it is and should set and example to all us humans out her

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