Mole, the name of many insectivorous mammals of the family talpidm, embracing several genera which agree in having a stout, thick, clumsy body, without visible neck, no external ears, minute auditory foramina, very small eyes, short limbs, the anterior much the broadest and largest, with strong claws, short tail, and soft, velvety, and compact fur. Moles are generally distributed over the earth, except in South America and within the tropics, though the genera are closely restricted within certain regions; thus talpa is found only in Europe and Asia, scalops and condylura in North America, chrysocliloris in Africa, and urotri-chus in Japan and N. W. America. In talpa (Linn.) the dentition is: incisors 6/8, canines none, and molars (8/7)-(8/7), the first of the molars representing a canine (the upper in front of the lower), and the last three tuberculate; by some writers the fourth tooth on each side in each jaw is called a canine, which would make the teeth equal in number and alike in kind in both jaws. The nose is lengthened, truncate at the point; feet five-toed, the soles of the fore feet turned backward, with toes connected and strong claws.
The European mole (T. Europma, Linn.) is 5 or 6 in. long, with a tail of 1 in.; the fur is blackish and very fine; the bones of the fore limbs are very short and strong, supported by firm clavicles, and ending in a shovel-shaped hand, strengthened by the elongated falciform carpal bone, armed with large claws, and moved by muscles of great power; the sternum is keeled for the attachment of the pectoral muscles, the principal ones employed in digging their burrows; the muscles of the head are also powerful assistants in loosening the earth as the animal pursues its underground passage, preparing the way by its pointed, movable, hog-like snout. The senses of smell, hearing, and touch are very acute. The eyes are two black glittering points, about the size of mustard seed, concealed and protected by the surrounding skin and hairs. The popular belief that the mole is blind is an error; the mole of Greece mentioned by Aristotle as blind is either the species T. caeca (Sav.), in which there is no visible ocular fissure, or perhaps a burrowing rodent or rat-mole (genus spalax, Guld.), in which the very small eyes are hidden under the hairy skin.
The openings of the ears and mouth may be closed by membranous folds to prevent the entrance of earth; the vent is considerably prolonged upon the tail. Four or five young are produced at a time, twice a year, in spring and autumn. The food consists of worms, insects, and tender roots, in search of which it burrows in the ground; these excavations also serve as places of residence and as highways of travel from one field to another; its abode is in some firm hillock in a secure situation, in which are two circular galleries connected by a chamber excavated in the centre of the lower gallery; these communicate by intricate passages with the high road, through which the animal passes with considerable speed, though very slow-moving on the surface of the ground; the road is placed at a depth of from 4 to 14 in., according to its exposure to pressure from above. The mole frequently comes to the surface to get rid of the loosened earth; it is very voracious, and is soon killed by hunger; it is active all winter, though at a depth of a foot or more, and in summer at night frequently seeks its prey at the surface; it is a good swimmer; when irritated it bites severely, and the males in the love season often engage in deadly combats.
The colors vary; individuals are seen of white, ash, or fawn color. The soft fur is manufactured into light robes and very fine hats, and has been employed for artificial eyebrows. The mole is frequently very detrimental to cultivated lands, but the loss is more than counterbalanced by the destruction of noxious inserts and weeds. - The golden moles of Africa (chrysocldoris, Lacep.) have incisors 6/6, the middle lower ones small and narrow, and molars (7/7)-(7/7) the eyes are covered by skin, nose naked and leathery, fore feet four-toed, with fourth toe very small, hind feet five-toed, and no tail. The best known species (C. Capensis, Desm.) is brownish with green and golden reflections; it inhabits the Cape of Good Hope, and has the form, size, and habits of the mole. - The star-nosed mole of North America (condylura, Illiger) has the end of the nose surrounded by 22 movable fleshy radiating filaments, which serve as delicate organs of touch; the incisors are 6/6, the upper middle ones broad, the lower ones procumbent, canines (1/1)-(1/1), molars (7/7)-(7/7) eyes very small; feet five-toed; tail moderate, thinly haired.
The C. cristata (Desm.) is about 4 in. long from tip of nose to base of tail, the latter being 3 in. more; it has the general form of the moles; the hands resemble those of terrapins, and with the hind feet (considerably larger) are furnished on both surfaces with a tvering of brown scales, with a horny tubercle on the inner edge of the soles; the under surface of the fingers is extended into fringed horny processes. The fur is rather coarse, and sooty brown. It is found in the northern parts of America from the Atlantic to the lacihc. - The most common American mobs belong to tin- genus scalops (Cuv.), called also shrew moles from the resemblance of their dentition to that of the shrews; the incisors are 6/4 canines (1/1)-(1/1), molars (6/5)-(6/5) scapanus (fomel), set apart for the Oregon and hairy-tailed moles, the incisors are 6/6, canines (1/1)-(1/1), and molars (7/7)-(7/7). In the common mole (S. aquaticus, Cuv.) the teeth are 36, the eyes not covered by integument, tail nearly naked, and feet fully webbed; the color is dark plumbeous, with sometimes a brownish tinge, and the feet and tail are white; it is between 4 and 5 in. long, with the tail about an inch; it is found from Canada to Florida, and as far west as the Mississippi. - The genus urotrichm (Temm.) has incisors 2/2, canines (1/0)-(1/0), and molars (8/7)-(8/7); the muzzle is prolonged into a cylindrical tube terminating in a naked bulb; tail short and hairy.
A common species in Japan is the U. talpoides (Temm.), smaller than the common mole. A species (U. Gibbsii,Baird), 2 1/4 in. long, occurs in Washington territory.
European Mole (Talpa Europaea). a. Fore paw. b. Hind paw. c. Nest.
Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata). a. Jaws. b. End of nose.
Shrew Mole (Scalops).