Moles are small burrowing mammals.
There are about 42 species of moles.
Moles are found on every continent except Antarctica and South America.
The term mole is especially and most properly used for “true moles” of the Talpidae family in the order Eulipotyphla, which are found in most parts of North America, Asia, and Europe, although it may also refer to unrelated mammals of Australia and southern Africa that have convergently evolved the “mole” body plan.
Moles typically live underground, burrowing holes, but some species are semi-aquatic.
Although all moles dig tunnels, their habitat preferences vary. Some moles, such as the star-nosed mole, like moist soil and live in bogs and marshes, while others, including the eastern and star-nosed moles, live in the drier soil found in wooded areas, meadows and fields.
They are found at elevations extending from sea level to 4,500 meters (14,800 feet).
The lifespan of a mole is 3 to 6 years in the wild.
Moles have cylindrical bodies, velvety fur, very small, inconspicuous ears and eyes, reduced hindlimbs, and short, powerful forelimbs with large paws adapted for digging.
Most moles species grow from 11.5 to 16 centimeters (4.5 to 6.25 inches) long from snout to rump. Their tails add 2.5 to 4 centimeters (1 to 1.6 inches) of length.
The smallest mole is the American shrew mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii), which weighs only 7 to 11 grams (0.25 to 0.39 ounce) and has a body 3 to 4 cm (less than 2 inches) long and a slightly shorter tail.
The largest mole is the Russian desman (Desmana moschata) of central Eurasia, which weighs 100 to 220 grams (3.53 to 7.76 ounces) and has a body 18 to 22 cm (7 to 9 inches) long and a tail nearly as long.
The powerful forelimbs of most species are rotated outward from the body, like oars protruding from a boat. The large circular hands are fringed with sensory hairs and have broad spadelike claws for digging; they also function as paddles for swimming.
Moles spend their lives underground, digging tunnels to reach their prey, which includes earthworms, snails, slugs, grubs and any other insects they can find. In such a dark, dirt-filled environment, moles don’t need senses such as powerful eyesight like some other animals do, but they depend on other adaptations for their health and survival.
The muzzle is tipped with thousands of microscopic tactile structures (Eimer’s organs). Using these structures and sensory hairs along the muzzle and elsewhere on the body, moles detect and differentiate details of their environment and their prey.
Few mammals could survive extended periods in underground tunnels without a regular source of oxygen. Moles, however, show no adverse affects when exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide, or conversely, low levels of oxygen, for long periods of time. Specialized blood cells affect the way hemoglobin binds to carbon dioxide, allowing them to breathe in the same air they just breathed out without any ill effects.
Moles are generally active all year and by day or night in cycles of activity and rest. Typical moles will only infrequently go to the surface to gather nest materials and seek water during drought.
They are solitary creatures, coming together only to mate. Territories may overlap, but moles avoid each other and males may fight fiercely if they meet.
There is one litter per year, usually of three to five young, born in a nest of dry vegetation. Youngs leave the nest 30–45 days after birth to find territories of their own.
Male moles are called “boars”, females are called “sows”. A group of moles is called a “labour”.
One mole can easily eat 70 to 100 percent of its weight in food each day.
The star-nosed mole can detect, catch and eat food faster than the human eye can follow.
The expression “don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill” – exaggerating problems – was first recorded in Tudor times.