holy moley!

The marsh-dwelling star-nosed mole likes fast food — really fast food. Researchers from Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University have recently discovered that the nearly blind, burrowing creature can eat faster than any other mammal on earth.

Using a high-speed video camera, biologists Kenneth Catania and Fiona Remple filmed star-nosed moles foraging for food in a glass-bottomed artificial tunnel. They found that moles could detect and swallow their tiny prey in about a quarter of a second, faster than the human eye can follow. The mole’s amazing speed is due to the 22 odd-looking appendages that circle its nose in a star, giving the animal its name. It doesn’t use the appendages to smell, but instead to search and probe its dark, underground environment efficiently and quickly.

These supersensitive touch organs can investigate a remarkable 13 targets per second. “Most predators take times ranging from minutes to seconds to handle their prey,” stated Catania in a press release. “The only things I’ve found that come even close are some species of fish.” Catania, of course, has yet to see my pooch inhale a hot dog.

You can see footage of a star-nosed mole foraging at www.exploration.vanderbilt.edu/news/news_mole.htm

This article appeared in the September 2005 issue of the children’s science magazine Muse.
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