Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Today's critter is the desman, a semi-aquatic cousin of the mole. Only two species of desman exist today, the Pyrenean desman and the Russian desman. Both species are vulnerable due to pollution and illegal fishing nets. The desman uses its webbed hind legs and powerful tail to swim through the water as easily as its cousins burrow through the ground. However, the most interesting feature of the desman is its nose. This prehensile trunk features the same Eimer's organ at the tip that the star-nosed mole has. This allows it to reach into nooks and crannies under the water and feel for tasty insects, crustaceans and amphibians. Despite being functionally blind, this organ is so powerful that it can construct as mental picture of its surroundings based on touch alone. Think of him as the combination of Namor and Daredevil, only in tiny mole form.
The desman has a surprisingly complex system of society and communication that is only just now starting to be studied.