The marsupial mole is an extremely odd looking animal which lives in the deserts of Australia. These animals are actually not moles but marsupials which act a lot like moles. This animal is pretty small at 4.5 to 7 in. (12-18 cm.) long. It also has a small tail which is about one inch (2.5 cm) long. Marsupial moles weigh hardly anything, at most 2.5 ounces (70 g) which is about as much as a large chicken egg. On each of this animal’s front legs, there are two claws, and on the back feet are three claws. They use these claws for digging in the sand. They get the “mole” part of their name from the fact that they dig so much. Marsupial moles have a bony “shield” covering the front of its snout to protect this body part from the sand. Their fur is normally a golden color, but it can be reddish-brown from iron stains due to the sand. There are two species of marsupial moles, the northern and southern marsupial moles. One of the few differences between these species is that the Southern marsupial mole is slightly larger.
Now you see me – now you don’t
Sightings of these animals are very rare at only once per year or once every other year. Tracks are sometimes seen after a rain, during which marsupial moles come to the surface to avoid drowning. These tracks are distinguishable by the two, small lines caused by their feet, and one deeper line caused by their tail. When they do come above ground, they are potential prey for members of the dog and cat families that also inhabit the Australian deserts.
There are two thoughts on why these animals are rarely seen. One idea is that these animals are rare and there are only a few of them in the wild. The other thought is that these animals hide underground most of the time. Most people who are lucky enough to see this secretive animal only get a short time to observe this odd wonder. The reason for this is that these animals can quickly dig underground if scared. Click here to see a video of this animal digging.
In order to dig, these animals will push aside sand with their front legs and then push it up and back with their back legs. Because of this technique of digging, any holes that are dug are quickly filled in, and all traces of this little known animal disappear. One other thing that shows how little is known about this animal is the fact that this animal is reported to be both nocturnal and diurnal by different sources!
Marsupial moles eat small animals that live in the sand or plants and animals they come across above ground. The animals include worms, centipedes, lizards, and more. When searching for prey while digging, these animals will use their senses of smell and touch in order to find food. No matter how hard they try, these animals most likely cannot use sight to catch their prey because they are thought to be blind! Because of this, they are sometimes called the “blind sand digger.”
People are not able to study marsupial moles in captivity because they live for so short of a time in captivity and often die after a few months. Aboriginals (natives of Australia) have even claimed not to have seen marsupial mole young and know very little, if anything about reproduction in this species.
Despite this, one source says that females carry one to two young in their pouches. These pouches are different from the pouches of most marsupials in that they face the opposite direction. Bilbies also have pouches facing the opposite direction. Instead of opening toward the head, they open toward the tail. Because of this, the babies have no worries of getting sand all over them when their mom is digging. Unless, however, the female decides to dig backwards, which is highly unlikely. The babies also do not have to worry about falling out when their mom stands up, because she never does.
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- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Marsupial mole: Wikipedia user:Bartus.malec
- Marsupial mole range: Wikipedia user: chermundy
- Mystery animal: Wikipedia user: Joshlaymon