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Natural Awakenings

Extinct Mole Rediscovered

A blind mole thought to have been extinct since 1936 was found in the sand dunes of South Africa.

Nicky Souness/re:Wild.org

A blind mole thought to have been extinct since 1936 was found in the sand dunes of South Africa, where the burrowing mammal’s habitat had been decimated by diamond mining. As reported in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, researchers used environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling and specially trained border collies along the west coast of South Africa to find the elusive De Winton golden mole. Its name is derived from the iridescent gold appearance of its fur coat, which secretes oil to facilitate its movement through sand. Because the creatures rarely leave their burrows and can detect movement above ground through vibrations, scientists relied on eDNA, which locates an animal using skin cells, hair and excretions they shed as they move.

The discovery is the result of a two-year effort by a team of scientists from the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the University of Pretoria as part of a campaign by the charity Re:wild to search for lost animal, plant and fungi species. Among their conservation efforts, Re:wild works to halt extinction and restore the world’s rarest, most threatened species.   

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