a face only a mother could love?
The star nosed mole (Condylura cristata) looks like something out of a science fiction novelist’s wildest imagination: the star of tentacles is seen nowhere else in the mammalian world, and covered with minute touch receptors known as Eimer’s organs, which some speculate are used to detect electrical activity in prey animals. Though there is little, if any, empirical support for this contention, the story of how the startling probiscus develops is equally fantastic:
The tentacles are not present when the mole is born, appearing only as swellings on the face around the nose. Yet shortly after birth these fleshy protrusions start to break free, curling backwards from the snout to curl pinkly around the nostrils.
…Of course, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this bizzare adaptation, and the incredibly sensitive nasal tentacles do serve a practical purpose: that is, they allow the animal to detect and capture extremely small prey items, which they then eat… at a decidedly fantastic speed: Nature gives this animal the title of fastest-eating mammal, citing the mole’s ability to identify and consume prey within 120 milliseconds. One might say, with little exageration, that its nose allows the mole to eat faster than a speeding bullet.
This animal, native to North America, is truly stranger than any fiction written on that continent.