Chrysospalax trevelyanigiant golden mole

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Geographic Range

Giant golden moles are found in the forests of the eastern Cape of South Africa. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b)

Habitat

This species seems to be restricted to large patches of coastal or Afromontane forests, although it is sometimes present in adjacent grasslands. These forests must have a deep litter layer, well developed undergrowth, and soft soils. Giant golden moles do not occur in rocky terrain or on steep slopes and are absent from the commercial forest plantations that have been established in the region. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Maddock and Hickman, 1985; Poduschka, 1980; Poduschka, 1982)

Physical Description

Most golden moles are usually about 12 to 17 cm long and weigh from 85 to 142 grams. Giant golden moles are about 20 cm in length and as heavy as 539 grams. Their fur is usually reddish brown, but is quite variable, ranging from black to pale yellow. The fur usually has an iridescent sheen of coppery gold, purple, green or bronze. Their bodies are fusiform, with large claws on their short, powerful forelegs. They have no external tail or ears, and their eyes are covered by skin. Their noses are pink and tapered. They have two layers of fur, an outer, moisture proof layer of guard hairs, and an insulating wooly underlayer. Their nose has a leather pad on it to protect the nostrils as they push through the soil. The first and fourth digits on their forelegs are vestigial, while the fifth digit has disappeared entirely. The third toe in front is greatly enlarged. They have five digits on their rear feet and they are webbed to shove the soil behind them as they dig. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Poduschka, 1982)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    539 (high) g
    19.00 (high) oz
  • Average length
    20 cm
    7.87 in

Reproduction

As part of a courtship ritual, males makes chirruping sounds at females while bobbing their heads and stomping their feet. In response to this, females make rasping and squealing noises. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Poduschka, 1982)

There is little available information on breeding behavior in giant golden moles. It is believed that they are polyestrous and breed throughout the year. In general, females raise one to two young per litter. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals are not known for giant golden moles.
  • Breeding season
    It is thought that giant golden moles breed throughout the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2

Females nurse and care for their young until they are weaned. Little is known about the kinds of parental care provided before independence in giant golden moles. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Information not known at this time.

Behavior

Giant golden moles are nocturnal. In the wild, they generally enter their burrows before dawn and emerge to forage well after dusk. While in their burrows they enter a state of torpor until evening. When in captivity, they require water to drink and eat an insect diet. If they are handled too much while they are in torpor, they will wake up and, in extreme cases, cease eating. Most species of golden moles do not need to drink free standing water because of their low metabolic rates and their diet. When they are awake, they stay moving almost constantly. When they sleep, their muscles twitch continuously. In the wild, giant golden moles inhabit burrows approximately 10 m long with a network of surface runways. Golden moles are generally solitary, and it is likely that giant golden moles are solitary as well. They are the only species that has shown any degree of social behavior, though, with several individuals being found together in the same burrow in midwinter, suggesting the possibility of social hibernation. Typically, adults are territorial and fight viciously if confined together. (Bronner, 1995; Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Maddock and Hickman, 1985; Poduschka, 1980; Poduschka, 1982)

Home Range

Information about home range sizes of giant golden moles is not available.

Communication and Perception

The eyes of golden moles are covered with a layer of skin. They likely use their senses of smell, touch, and hearing extensively in perceiving their environment and communicating. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Poduschka, 1982)

Food Habits

Giant golden moles are insectivores that feed mostly on earthworms, termites, and millipedes. They forage under litter on the forest floor. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b; Maddock and Hickman, 1985)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Domestic dogs have been reported preying on giant golden moles. Nocturnal snakes, owls, and mammalian carnivores are potential predators as well. Giant golden moles remain safe in burrows throughout the day, avoiding diurnal predators.

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Giant golden moles are important predators of earthworms and invertebrates in their forest ecosystems.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Giant golden moles help to control insect pests that they prey on.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of giant golden moles on humans.

Conservation Status

Chrysospalax trevelyani populations face habitat loss from the degradation of forests due to clearing, firewood collection, stripping of trees, and the overgrazing of livestock. They are also preyed upon by domestic, feral dogs. (Bronner, 2006a; Bronner, 2006b)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Ruth Zeimet (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Bronner, G. 1995. Cytogenetic properties of nine species of golden moles. Journal of Mammalogy, 76: 957-971.

Bronner, G. 2006. "Chrysospalax trevelyani" (On-line). IUCN Red List. Accessed November 01, 2006 at http://www.iucnredlist.org.

Bronner, G. 2006. "Golden Moles Biological Synopsis" (On-line). Afrotheria Specialist Group. Accessed November 01, 2006 at http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/golden_moles/.

Maddock, A., G. Hickman. 1985. A preliminary report on locomotory activity in wild and captive Chrysospalax trevelyani (Mammalia; Chrysochloridae). South African journal of zoology, 20: 271-273.

Poduschka, W. 1980. Notes on the giant golden mole Chrysospalax trevelyani Guntehr 1875 (Mammalia: Insectivora) and its survival chances. Z. Saugetierk, 45: 193-206.

Poduschka, W. 1982. The giant golden mole. Oryx, 16: 232-234.