Robust golden moles (Amblysomus robustus) are native only to South Africa. Although they are most frequently seen in the eastern Mpumalanga Highveld, their range is determined mostly by the known distributions of other similar species endemic to the area.
Robust golden moles are not particularly selective about their habitat. They have been found in marshes and grasslands of the Steenkampsberge mountains mainly, but also in developed areas near human activity (such as gardens and farmlands). They are terrestrial and fossorial, and are commonly found in South African grassland biomes.
Robust golden moles have been recorded as having a total length of 109 to 143 mm and a mass of 61 to 98 g. There is a significant variability in size due to sexual dimorphism (as males have larger skull sizes and wider third foreclaws). Variability also exists between populations at differing altitudes and climates. Populations of robust golden moles increase in mean size as altitude increases or as mean temperatures fall. Robust golden moles are distinguishable from similar species of the genus Amblysomus by the prominent third foreclaws of males. Their foreclaws are larger in width when compared to Highveld golden moles (A. septentrionalis) and Hottentot golden moles (A. hottentotus). Female robust golden moles are harder to distinguish from other species as there is little recorded difference between physical measurements.
Robust golden mole coloration varies between adults and juveniles. Adults have reddish-brown fur along all of their bodies except for their ventral surface, which is orange. Juveniles are greyish-brown dorsally, orange on their flanks (a slightly duller hue than adults), and orange ventrally (just like adults).
Robust golden moles have no external eyes or visible ears. They have prominent foreclaws and a hard, flat nose that helps them move through fossorial environments.
Due to the solitary nature of robust golden moles, adults defend potential mates fiercely from challengers intruding into their territory. Socially, this leads to isolation among members of the population. Both sexes have cloacae, and males have internal penises and testes.
Due to the scarce observation of robust golden moles, much of the information regarding reproduction is based on research into closely-related species. Females breed year round. They give birth to 1 to 3 young in underground, grass-lined nests. Courtship between robust golden moles is often violent. Increased breeding is observed during stretches of heavy rainfall, due to an increase in food sources. In these periods, individuals are more active and are more likely to encounter mates.
The extent of parental care that robust golden moles provide for their young is relatively unstudied. However, due to scarcity of resources and low predation, it is believed that both parents support juveniles for a short amount of time. Closely-related Hottentot golden moles (Amblystomus hottentotus) provide milk for their young until they are about 35 to 45 g, after which they are forced out of their burrow.
Lifespan for robust golden moles is unknown in this species and related species due to poor research funding, the nature of fossorial species, and difficulty navigating the landscapes in which they live.
Robust golden moles are very solitary. They are highly active, using their large foreclaws to move through the sand and hunt for food. Robust golden moles are extremely territorial and violent.
Home range for robust golden moles is unknown, due to lack of research.
Little is known about Robust golden mole communication, as they are generally isolated. However, closely-related species have been observed chirping to each other, which may be indicative of how robust golden moles communicate.
Robust golden moles have not been observed to have particular eating habits correlating to different parts of the day. They eat small insects, earthworms and possibly other burrowing prey. They rely heavily on their sense of hearing while underground, where they can detect faint vibrations in the surrounding soil.
Robust golden moles do not have defined predators (due to their complex burrowing patterns and low population density).
Not much is known about robust golden moles and their interactions with other members of the ecosystem. Aside from preying on small insects and burrowing vertebrates, it is believed that they do not often interact with other species, due to their reclusive lifestyle.
There is no known economic importance that robust golden moles provide for humans. There has been no documentation of using them for any type of trade.
There are no known negative effects of robust golden moles on human activity. When creating new burrows, excavated soil is left in small “mole mounds”, which may be a nuisance in farmlands in which they are commonly found.
The IUCN Red List lists robust golden moles as vulnerable. They are not listed on the United States Federal list or on CITES.
Robust golden moles are aptly named due to their significant size difference when compared to closely-related species. They are endangered by mining in South Africa and, due to their sensitive sense of hearing and vibrations, are often confused and disoriented by human activity that creates vibrations in the soil. Robust golden moles have been most extensively researched within a protected wildlife area that takes regular steps to maintain proper environmental conditions and limit human interaction.
Andrew Loisel (author), University of Washington, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Galen Burrell (editor).
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
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.
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.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
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.
parental care is carried out by females
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
parental care is carried out by males
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
breeding takes place throughout the year
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