Monday, May 28, 2007

Animal of the Week -- May 28, 2007

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Animal of the Week? Animal of the Fortnight more like!

Still, just time for one more marsupial for May. And this week's is a weird but beautiful creature. It's Notoryctes typhlops (southern marsupial mole)!

Like moles of the northern hemisphere and the golden moles of Africa, marsupial moles are extremely highly adapted to a burrowing (or fossorial, to use the technical language) lifestyle. Like the others they have big shovel-like claws on their front legs, hard nose, fused neck vertebrae, and they are blind because where their eyes should be, there is merely skin and lovely cream coloured velvety fur.

Living in desert environments, these moles swim through the sand searching for worms, witchetty grubs (, other larvae, and the occasional lizard. Another cunning adaptation to the fossorial lifestyle, this marsupial's pouch (or marsupium, to use the technical language) points backwards.

Once, the two species of marsupial mole were thought to be monotremes related to the platypus and echidna, not marsupials at all. Until recently their incredibly specialised form confounded taxonomists who were unable to work out how they were related to other marsupials. But actually these moles are most closely related to carnivorous marsupials such as numbats, Tasmanian devils, quolls, and the recently extinct Tasmanian tiger.

So anyway, this is the marsupial mole, it is animal of the week, and I am off now.


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