Life expectancy of moles in nature
People do not know much about the numerous underground inhabitants living on the same planet with them. One of their representatives is a mole - an amazing little creature that can dwell in cold and damp earth, despite the numerous threats to its life.
Although moles on the surface appear extremely rarely, they have natural enemies who are not averse to eat. What is the life expectancy of a mole in such harsh survival conditions? As science says, it all depends on its type and habitat.
There are several species of moles in the world, each of which is distinguished by its size, habitat and habits, but they also have similar features. They belong to the class of mammals and the order of insectivores, and the average life expectancy of moles in nature is 4 years, although there are also long-livers, who manage to live to 7 years.
Among these animals there are very tiny specimens, whose height does not exceed 6-7 cm (for example,Uropsilus soricipes, a Sichuan mole shrew), and larger representatives, almost giants in the underworld - Ussuri mogera, growing to 21 cm in length.
Weight also depends on the variety of these mammals and may not exceed 12-15 g in some and reach 300 g in others. And both in babies and large moles, life expectancy is 4-5 years.
Common in the structure of moles of different types
No matter how different these animals are in size, they have common characteristics, due to which they can live underground. Among them:
- An elongated body in the form of a rounded bar.
- The head with a cone-shaped muzzle, which ends with a nose - proboscis.
- Animal ears are rudimentary skin fragments that look more like twisted rollers protruding from the hair.
- Vibrissae (tough hairs), located on the tail, which help the moles move in underground labyrinths in any direction, though backwards.
- The eyes of animals practically do not function, since when living in complete darkness they were replaced by well-developed hearing, touch and smell.
- Well-developed small teeth in the amount of from 34 to 44 pieces, depending on the type of moles, are not adapted to bite into the ground, but are used to hunt insects and soil invertebrates.
- Animal hair grows upwards and bends perfectly in different directions, and does not cover the body in any one direction, like in other mammals, which facilitates underground movement and protects it from pollution.
- The paws of the moles are turned palms outward and serve as a kind of shovels for throwing off the ground when laying holes.
Depending on where the moles live, they differ in the shade of fur, which can vary from brown and gray to deep black.
Underground dwellers lifestyle
It is probably easier to list the places where moles do not live, as these mammals are distributed almost everywhere. They are not only where the soil is not suitable for them because of its density or composition. So, they do not like:
- Sandstones and too dry places where it is difficult to obtain food.
- Tundra and forest tundra due to too deep freezing of the earth.
- Places where groundwater is close to the surface.
- Forests, overgrown with powerful trees and shrubs, whose root system is intertwined into a single dense "carpet".
Moles prefer soft soil, in which it is easy to dig underground tunnels.Often, they choose to use vegetable gardens at their summer cottages and backyards, as the land there is constantly loosening and fertilizing, which leads to an increase in the number of worms and insects with which they feed.
Factors affecting the life expectancy of moles
Although these mammals try not to be seen by anyone, they have natural enemies, but not only the mole population depends on them. There are several factors that affect the life span of animals. Moles may die:
- from hunger;
- from flooding;
- cold weather;
- attacks of other animals;
- becoming a "dinner" like yourself.
Let us consider in more detail each factor.
The threat of dying from hunger is that these animals have a very fast metabolism, for which males require up to 130-150 g to maintain, and females up to 80 g of food per day. At the same time, the question of how much a mole lives is on the background. The life span of this mammal without food will be only 17 hours.
That is why the moles in their multi-meter corridors of the burrows arrange storerooms where earthworms are put. They are the main source of their food, although the bears, and the larvae of the May beetles, and the caterpillars of the butterfly-moth often enter the moles menu.To immobilize their prey, these animals nibble their prey, leaving alive, but making it impossible to crawl away.
The diet of the moles is such that at one time they can swallow from 30 g to 40 g of worms, but the meal lasts no less than half an hour. After five or six hours, the animals need the next portion of food, after which they fall into sleep. After resting for 3-4 hours, the moles go in search of food, and the whole process repeats.
These mammals rarely leave their shelters, so it is almost impossible to see them hunting on the surface.
How much a mole lives often depends on its habitat. Here we do not mean specific regions, since this mammal is widespread, with the exception of polar regions and countries with cold or too hot climate.
An important criterion for the habitat of these animals is the friability of the soil and the abundance of invertebrates in it that they feed on. That is why moles prefer:
- Glades in the forest, where there are no trees with their powerful rhizomes.
- Meadows on which the grass loosens the soil with its roots and fertilizes it, attracting a large number of different larvae and earthworms.
- Broad-leaved and mixed young forests, in which moles find attractive edges for themselves.
- Farmland, where constantly loosen and cultivate the soil.
- Hilly and mountainous areas up to the alpine meadow zone.
If nothing breaks the peace of the moles in these places, then they can live up to 7 years.
Impact of weather conditions
The main climatic enemies affecting the life expectancy of moles are:
- A drought that destroys vegetation, which causes invertebrates and other insects that they feed on.
- Frost, or rather, the freezing of the soil. If the ground becomes too hard, the moles lose their ability to move, as they cannot dig. And the food in their pantries can freeze and become inedible.
- Floods caused by river flooding due to heavy and frequent rains or large amounts of ice and snow. Flooded burrows force animals to rise to the surface, and if they do not sink at the same time, they often become victims of land predators.
It is because of similar (on the scale of moles) "cataclysms" their average life expectancy is 3-4 years.
Another factor that influences how many years the moles live is predators, humans, and even congeners who can eat them. Strangely enough, but these small animals are not averse to cannibalism and have a difficult character.
Moles prefer to live separately, carefully protecting their territory from strangers. As a rule, males unite with females only for the time of mating. If an extraneous mole accidentally or deliberately violates the borders, the owner of the hole will not fail to join him in a fight, and after the victory of one of them, the survivor will not forget to feast on the defeated enemy.
Natural predators of moles are predators such as badgers, raccoons, boars, martens, owls, eagles and other birds. That is why these small animals leave their shelters only in the event of a real danger underground.
Thus, all these factors affect the life expectancy of moles, but scientists were able to calculate an average of four years under favorable conditions.