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Sculptures by Phyllis Bone



The two living species of marsupial moles (Notoryctes typhlops and N. caurinus) are the only marsupials with a fossorial (burrowing), subterrranean, life style. They live in sandy soils in the deserts of Central Australia. Feeding on arthropods, especially the larvae of scarab beetles, and small lizards, they obtain water from their food and conserve it by being active at night. Their dental formula is I4/3; CI/I; P2/3; M4/4.

Marsupial moles have specialized features that enable them to burrow with ease:

  • protective horny shields on their snouts to push their way through the soil;
  • fused vertebrae in the head and neck region to provide rigidity;
  • greatly enlarged flat claws on the third and fourth digits of their short, fore limbs;
  • short, flattened hind limbs with reduced digits and small flat claws on the second, third and fourth digits;
  • no functional eyes, because it is dark underground;
  • no external ears so their ears do not become clogged with earth;
  • only small slits for nostrils;
  • the female's pouch opens to the rear, so it does not become filled with earth when she burrows.

Marsupials moles greatly resemble the true moles (family Talpidae) and the Golden mole (family Chrisochloridae) in appearance. Strangely marsupial moles, unlike other fossorial mammals, dig burrows which collapse behind them as the moles move along through the soil!

Notoryctes typhlops
Notoryctes typhlops

Bandicoots Dasyurids
Thylacine Koala Wombats
Kangaroos Possums Feathertail or pygmy glider