Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) scapulae

Object of the Month: 11/2004

What is it?:

Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) scapulae

Where was it collected:

Shoreview, Ramsey County, Minnesota


Scapulae 18 mm x 14 mm; mole specimen 183 mm long

Accession #: Mole specimen Z79:16:8

Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) scapulae
Mole (Scalopus aquaticus) scapulae

The Common, or Eastern, Mole Scalopus aquaticus is an abundant mammal in much of our region. Rarely ever encountered above ground, it makes its presence known because of surface tunnel ridges and small mounds of dirt which appear on otherwise well-manicured lawns. Consequently, moles are rather despised and often trapped by offended urban landowners.

Mole specimen with its large front paws, used for tunneling through soil.
Due to its burrowing (fossorial) habits, the mole has developed structural adaptations not present on other mammals. Note the extreme spade-like development of the front feet of the mole, which are well designed for digging. Associated with this forelimb modification are robust musculature and unique shoulder blades (scapulae). By contrast, the hindlimbs show no unusual development. In the course of pursuing its diet of invertebrates (more than 90% earthworms), an individual mole can turn over a ton of soil per year. In natural environments, this process helps to aerate the soil and it also facilitates the breakdown of plant and organic debris into the soil.
Mole specimen; note the difference in the front and back feet.
No totally effective method of mole control appears to exist. Constant trapping will usually be followed by new moles appearing in the vacated territories of those removed. For more information on the life history of moles in Minnesota refer to the book Mammals of Minnesota by Evan B. Hazard, published in 1982 by the University of Minnesota Press.