Giant Golden Mole

Chrysospalax trevelyani

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
©

The giant golden mole is able to sense vibrations through the earth because of the giant bone structure in its inner ear that works in conjunction with a bony plate which surrounds the skull.


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Giant Golden Mole Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Afrosoricida
Family
Chrysochloridae
Genus
Chrysospalax
Scientific Name
Chrysospalax trevelyani

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Giant Golden Mole Conservation Status

Giant Golden Mole Locations

Giant Golden Mole Locations

Giant Golden Mole Facts

Prey
Millipedes, cockroaches, giant earthworms, worms, crickets, and grasshoppers
Main Prey
Millipedes
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The giant golden mole is able to sense vibrations through the earth because of the giant bone structure in its inner ear that works in conjunction with a bony plate which surrounds the skull.
Estimated Population Size
Population unknown
Biggest Threat
Habitat destruction due to human activity
Most Distinctive Feature
An iridescent coat, which is a trait shared by all golden moles.
Distinctive Feature
The giant golden mole is the largest of all golden moles.
Gestation Period
6 weeks
Temperament
Territorial
Litter Size
1 to 2 newborns
Habitat
Leafy forest floors near the South African Cape coast
Predators
Nocturnal snakes, owls, domesticated and feral dogs, and various carnivorous mammals
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Favorite Food
Millipedes
Origin
South Africa
Location
South Africa
Nesting Location
In burrows

Giant Golden Mole Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Fur
Lifespan
About 4 years
Weight
Approximately 1 pound
Length
8 to 9 inches
Aggression
Medium

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Summary

Giant golden moles are small burrowing insectivores found in the Cape region of South Africa. They belong to a larger family of golden moles (Chrysochloridae) containing 20 other species. Although they appear similar to North American, European, and Asian moles, they are not “true moles.” They seem related because of convergent evolution and have adapted functions to interact with similar environments. Humans know little about the creature due to its underground habitat and limited numbers.

5 Giant Golden Mole Facts

  • The inner ear bones of the giant golden mole are, relative to their size, the largest of any mammal.
  • These giant inner ear bones and bony plates surrounding the skull allow the creature to detect vibrations through soil.
  • Like other golden moles, giant golden moles have an iridescent coat that shimmers as it changes position relative to light.
  • The giant golden mole is the largest of the golden moles.
  • It preys upon insects harmful to agriculture and conditions soil by aerating and fertilizing it.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the giant golden mole is Chrysospalax trevelyani. Chrys- is Latin for “gold,” and -spalax is a New Latin adaptation of the Greek word for “mole.” The species’ name derives from Captain Herbert Trevelyan, who included a giant golden mole in donating 37 South African specimens to the British Museum in 1875.

There are two golden moles in the genus Chrysospalax, including the giant golden mole and the rough-haired golden mole. Chrysospalax is one genus out of ten in the Chrysochloridae family, containing all of the golden moles.

Appearance 

The giant golden mole is the largest of the African golden moles. It weighs a little over one pound and is eight to nine inches long. They have cylindrical bodies with triangular heads and no tails. Their front limbs are short and muscular, with four long claws. They have no external ears and flaps of skin cover their functionless eyes. The area around their nose is bare and tough. They are brown to dark brown on top, with a lighter coat underneath. Also, they are one of the few golden moles with long, coarse hair as their outer coat. Their undercoat is thick and woolly. Like all golden moles, the giant golden mole has flat scaly hairs which reflect and refract light, creating a colorful, iridescent effect.

giant golden mole

The giant golden mole has no external ears. its eyes are covered with flaps of skin.

©Emőke Dénes, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Behavior

Giant golden moles are nocturnal burrowing animals. Their burrows tend to be about ten meters long with various offshoot tunnels, including latrines and nurseries. They come out to forage after dusk and return to their burrows before dawn. While they are awake, they seldom stop moving. During the day, they will enter what is called “torpor.” During torpor, their metabolisms slow, and their temperatures drop to conserve energy. To offset the temperature drop, they will shiver as they sleep. During the winter, they will hibernate near the roots of trees. This is the only time they will show anything other than solitary behavior, sometimes nesting with others of their species. Usually, they are very territorial and will fight viciously if their tunnel system is invaded.

Habitat

The giant golden mole is found near the South African coast, mostly in forests, though sometimes in surrounding grasslands. They require soft, rock-free soil to burrow in and depend on the leaves and debris that can gather on forest floors and beneath undergrowth to host their prey. They do not regulate their body temperatures well and require a very narrow range of temperatures to survive.

Diet

They are carnivorous, feeding on various vertebrates and invertebrates. They will feed on millipedes, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, burrowing snakes, worms, giant earthworms, snails, and even small lizards. In the wild, they seldom need water, as their metabolisms are very efficient, and they get all the moisture they need from their diet.

Predators and Threats

They are preyed upon by owls, nocturnal snakes, domestic and feral dogs, and some carnivorous mammals. Throughout the day, they are safe from predation in their burrows.

Their greatest threat is habitat disruption caused by human activity. Mining, bark stripping, development, deforestation, and harmful agricultural practices destroy the forests and leaf-covered soil they rely on for hunting and protection.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Female giant golden moles can mate year-round, but most mating occurs from October through November. Males attract females by stamping their feet, bobbing their heads, and chittering. Females will reciprocate by squeaking and squealing. Single males will mate with multiple females, which then carry their young for about six weeks before giving birth.

The female will give birth to one to two helpless, hairless newborns. She will care for, nurse, and defend them until they are ready to live independently, at which point, she will push them out of the nest.

Giant golden moles live for about four years.

Giant Golden Mole Population

The giant golden mole is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Not much is known about their numbers because they live most of their lives underground. Though the species is endangered, no conservation efforts are being made on their behalf.

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About the Author

Rob Amend is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering meteorology, geology, geography, and animal oddities. He attained a Master's Degree in Library Science in 2000 and served as reference librarian in an urban public library for 22 years. Rob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, photography, woodworking, listening to classic rock, and watching classic films—his favorite animal is a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey.

Giant Golden Mole FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are giant golden moles extinct?

Though the giant golden mole is not extinct, its status is listed as Endangered on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Are giant golden moles rare?

The giant golden mole is rare and hard to find. Its population is limited to the coastal forests of South Africa.

What kingdom is the giant golden mole in?

All animals are classified within the kingdom Animalia. To better understand the giant golden mole’s place in the scientific taxonomy, we could start with the class, which would be Mammalia. Interestingly, unlike “true moles” of North America, Europe, and Asia, the giant golden mole belongs to the order Afrosoricida, which includes golden moles, otter shrews, and tenrecs. All golden moles belong to the family Chrysochloridae.

Are giant golden moles nocturnal?

Giant golden moles are nocturnal. They stay in their burrows through most of the day, sometimes venturing out for short periods during cool or overcast days, but otherwise foraging through leaves and forest debris at night, looking for prey.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. Encyclopedia.com / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  2. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  3. Critter Science / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  4. UCL Culture Blog / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  5. IUCN Redlist / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  6. Merriam-Webster Dictionary / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023
  7. History of Collections on Natural History of The British Museum / Published March 23, 2023 / Accessed March 23, 2023