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February 4, 2005

Star-nosed mole - World's fastest-eating mammal

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Yesterday's Nature magazine contained a report on the blindingly-fast eating habits of the star-nosed mole (above).

The marsh-dwelling burrower can detect, identify and ingest its small prey (usually insect larvae or earthworms) in an average of 227 milliseconds (less than a quarter of a second).

By comparison, it takes a person about 650 milliseconds to brake after seeing a traffic light turn red.

The secret to the mammal's foraging ability is the star-shaped set of 22 appendages that ring its nose, helping it feel around in the dark for prey.

Flexible fingers and tweezer-like incisors also help.

Vanderbilt University biologists Kenneth Catania and Fiona Remple captured the moles' feeding behavior with a high-speed video camera.

The moles eat so fast that they frequently make mistakes, skipping over edible food only to return later for a second pass.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: you probably want to see the movies, don't you?

OK then: here they are.

They're spectacularly eerie.

Wait till James Cameron gets a look - he'll probably make them the stars of his next movie.

[via Michelle Healy and USA Today]

February 4, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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