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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone

Erinaceidae Solenodontidae Soricidae Talpidae Tenrecidae

Family: Talpidae (moles & desmans)

There are 42 species of talpids, within 17 genera, and are found throughout North America and Europe. The Asiatic moles and Japanese shrew moles are also found through much of Asia. Around two thirds of this family are at least partially fossorial, digging underground tunnels. Their diet consists mainly of invertebrates, while some species also consume plant material. As expected, the fossorial species are adapted to subterranean life, possessing tiny eyes, and lacking external ears. The forelimbs are short and strong, terminating in powerful claws. The very short, velvety fur lies equally well in any direction, allowing easy movement in burrows backwards as well as forwards. The zygomatic arches are complete, and there is an auditory bullae present. The pectoral girdle and forelimbs are orientated to aid burrowing - the elbows point dorsally and the palms of the front feet face dorsally. A short and broad clavicle is also present. The teeth are unspecialised and typical of the Insectivora. The dental formula is: i2-3/1-3, c1/0-1, pm3-4/3-4, m3/3 = 33 - 44. The molars are dilambdodont.

Desmans, of which there are 2 extant species, are aquatic and are adapted for swimming. The tail is long, flattened and broadened with a fringe of stiff hairs. The nostrils and ears are opened and closed by valves. They have webbed feet and an unusually flexible snout that is used to probe for food at the bottoms of lakes, streams and ponds. They eat aquatic invertebrates and small fish. Both species are endangered. Desmans are largely nocturnal, whereas most moles are cathemeral. Most mole species are solitary and defend a large proportion of their home range.

Talpa europaea (Common European Mole)