Form and Function

The Eimer's organs of Condyura cristata. Photo credit: Kenneth Catania Condylura cristata has evolved numerous characteristics that help it survive, but none have been studied as extensively as the star-shaped nose, which its common name (star-nosed mole) is based on. C. cristata lives primarily underground and, because of this,  its sight has diminished through the generations. To combat this, the star-nosed mole has evolved a very sophisticated nose; its functions have been extensively studied by many scientists. The nose has twenty-two appendages that form a star shape at the nose (National Geographic 2010). Each of these appendages is covered with thousands of receptors called Eimer’s organs that act as feelers for C. cristata (Marasco and Catania 2007). These feelers have allowed C. cristata to become one of the most proficient hunters in North America. Because of the numerous ultra-sensitive feelers the nose can detect the smallest particles and prey (National geographic 2010).

Further research into this fascinating nose has revealed that the nose has even Star Nosed Molemore functions than just being a feeler. Scientists have found evidence to believe that the star additionally serves as an electrosensory organ (Gould et al. 1998). This means that C. cristata could use its nose to detect prey without touching it. C. cristata’s nose actually works as the eyes for this otherwise blind organism.

Another trait that C. cristata has evolved through time is its oxygen storage capacity. C. cristata is a semi-aquatic mammal so it needs the extra oxygen storage to sustain dives underwater for as long as 47 seconds (McIntyre et al. 2002). When tested, C. cristata’s lung capacity was measured to be 65.4% higher than non-aquatic moles (McIntyre et al. 2002). This extra lung capacity has allowed C. cristata to extend its hunting grounds to damper environments where C. cristata’s main food sources thrive.

<<Habitat                                  Home            Reproduction and Life History>>