We decided to focus on fossorial mammals, and moles in particular. Fossorial mammals are vertebrate
organisms with limbs that are adapted for digging. The European mole, the golden mole, and the marsupial
mole are all different species that have specific adaptations for burrowing. The European mole is native to
Europe, with its habitat spanning from Great Britain to Russia. The African golden mole species are endemic
to Sub Saharan Africa. And finally, the Australian marsupial mole is native to the deserts of Australia.
Our research has uncovered behavioral and skeletal adaptations of these fossorial mammals that provide
evidence of convergent evolution. Although these three species of moles live in different parts of the world,
they have all adopted a similar body plan that is different from non-fossorial insectivores. This puts an
emphasis on the importance of habitat on evolution. Similar to the mole in shape and size, are animals like
the shrew and the desman. However, because they do not live the same subterranean lifestyle that the
moles live, they do not exhibit the fossorial adaptations of the mole species. These adaptations have
evolved due to the stresses placed on them while living underground, and allow the species to live and
Statement of Purpose:
We will look at taxonomic differences between the three mole families, as well as burrowing, behavioral, and
skeletal adaptations, to demonstrate that these fossorial mammals exhibit convergent evolution.
All species of moles have cylindrical bodies with short, stocky limbs, and both the European mole and
Marsupial mole have a short tail to aid in burrowing. They lack external ears and their eyes are poorly
developed and mainly hidden behind their fur. All three families of moles have long fur with an iridescent
sheen. However, the fur of the marsupial mole and golden mole is very similar in colour, typically a silvery
yellow or light pink. Due to these external similarities, it is essential for scientists to further examine their
skeletal structures to better understand each family’s unique adaptations.
Moles are insectivores, meaning that they primarily eat earthworms and small invertebrates found in the soil,
as well as a variety of nuts. Their bodies are adapted for burrowing, and they therefore spend most of their
lives underground. Moles are very territorial, and will fight aggressively with members of either sex by
wrestling using their foreclaws and biting at the abdomen. Moles have an acute sense of smell and mark
their territory with urine that contains odorous substances produced by a pair of scent glands beneath the
skin of the lower abdomen.
Despite their visual similarities, the 3 mole families vary greatly in behavior, and this is largely influenced by
their habitat. Golden and European moles live in earthy soils, whereas the Marsupial mole lives in sandy
deserts. Consistency of the substrate has a huge impact on tunnel building. The compact substrate
inhabited by Golden and European moles allow the construction of permanent tunnels. Golden moles dig a
2-tier system of tunnels: the upper level is for hunting, and the lower layer is for nesting and raising young.
European moles are also known to dig burrows to store food. The more loose, sandy substrate inhabited by
Marsupial moles causes tunnels to collapse behind the mole as it goes along, giving the appearance that it
swims through the sand. As for burrowing itself, all 3 families rely heavily on their paws and claws, but the
golden mole also uses a tough snout to help break up Earth. Vibration detection is a very important sense
for moles; it helps them find prey, avoid predators, and detect cave-ins. This vital sense is represented
differently in each family. Golden moles have evolved a specialized, enlarged malleus for this purpose.
European moles have vibrissa (whiskers) on their face, legs, and tail which sense vibration, and marsupial
moles detect vibration in the middle ear.Lastly, golden and European moles exhibit placental reproduction,
whereas their Australian counterparts are marsupials, with a unique backwards facing pouch to prevent dirt
entering whilst digging. The European Mole
The most noticeable skeletal differences in moles are the proportions and position of the bones of the
pectoral girdle and the bones associated with it, and that's