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May 21, 2011

Star-nosed Mole

One of the most intriguing stars in the universe is right here on Earth: the eleven pairs of pink fleshy appendages ringing the snout of the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata). From its appearance and location, one would think this star might be a supersensitive olfactory organ, helping the nearly blind mole negotiate its subterranean environment, or an extra hand for grasping prey or manipulating objects. Some researchers have hypothesized that the star detects electric fields, thus acting as a kind of antenna. But in reality, the star is an extraordinary touch organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, called Eimer’s organs, with which this hamster-sized mole feels its way around.


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