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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Insular Mole

Family : Talpidae
Species : Mogera insularis

Head-Body Length : Up to approx 12 cm
Tail Length : To at least 1.5 cm
Weight : Up to 70 grams

The Insular Mole, or East Asian Mole, is a typical example of the genus Mogera, of which nine species are now recognised and which occur predominantly in parts of China and Japan. This is the only species in the genus whose range extends into Southeast Asia proper.

Typically this is a lowland species, thriving in areas of rich, fertile soil. In Taiwan it reportedly inhabits a variety of undisturbed and disturbed habitats ranging from forests and riverbanks to fruit farms and other cultivated areas. However, in mainland China it also occurs in hilly and mountainous regions.

This mole exhibits the external characteristics typical of Old World moles, with large front feet (turned sideways for digging), powerful claws, a short bare snout and a short tail. The smooth, velvet-like fur is greyish-brown across the entire body.

Moles typically excavate tunnels in firm soil, with the waste soil being extruded as molehills. Though their eyes are much reduced and their ears are small, their sensitive snout can easily detect the presence of earthworms, their main prey, as they patrol their burrows. In addition to soft-bodied invertebrates this species also consumes insects and insect larvae.

Some moles have a chemical compound in their saliva which can paralyse earthworms and other invertebrates, thus they can hoard their food prey for later consumption.

Moles are sometimes perceived as agricultural pests, however their tunnelling serves to loosen deeper layers of compacted soil, thereby improving drainage, and bringing rich nutrients to the surface.

The Insular Mole occurs in many provinces of southern and south-eastern China, as well as the islands of Taiwan (where it was first described) and Hainan. In 2009 it was reported as resident in northern Vietnam.

Figs 1 to 3 : Encounters with moles at surface are uncommon.  The specimen in these three images (above), tentatively identified as an Insular Mole based on external characters, was seen on the slopes of Huanggang Shan in the Wuyi Shan mountain range, Fujian Province, China.  Photos thanks to Timothy and Gloria Pwee.

References :

Kawada, S., Son N. T., & Can D. N. (2009). Moles (Insectivora, Talpidae, Talpinae) of Vietnam. Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science, Series A. 35, 89-101.

Read the curious story of how Gloria and Timothy Pwee unexpectedly found the mole pictured here.

Fig 1
ゥ  Gloria & Timothy Pwee
Fig 2
ゥ  Gloria & Timothy Pwee
Fig 3
ゥ  Gloria & Timothy Pwee