73.
Gunning’s Golden Mole
(Neamblysomus gunningi)
EN
Overview
Despite resembling true moles in appearance, golden moles are in fact more closely related to an ancient group of African mammals which includes the elephants, sea cows, hyraxes, aardvark, sengis and tenrecs. Gunning’s golden moles create conspicuous ridges of soil as they tunnels through the ground. They are thought to be most active at night, coming to the surface after heavy rains to forage for earthworms and insects. The species has a highly localised distribution, which makes it particularly vulnerable to human activities. The possibility of privatization of some of the state owned forests in which the species occurs is a potential threat, particularly if commercial forestry operations are started.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Research is needed to document the natural history of this species.
Distribution
South Africa.
Fact
Golden moles have a low basal metabolic rate and do not thermoregulate when at rest. They have a lower body temperature than other similarly sized mammals and are able to enter a state of torpor either daily or in response to cold temperatures. This greatly reduces energy requirements, and enables golden moles to survive in areas where temperatures are extreme and food is scarce.
Associated Blog Posts
24th Oct 11
Gunning’s golden mole (Neamblysomus gunning) is the highest ranking EDGE species of the enigmatic golden moles, an ancient group of subterranean mammals. T...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Afrosoricida
Family: Chrysochloridae
Golden moles are not related to the moles, from which they gain their common name, but rather to a group of African mammals, known as the Afrotheria. This ancient radiation of African mammals includes seven groups of animals thought to have shared a common ancestor 100 million years ago. These animals have little superficial resemblance to each other. The elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes; the aardvark and sengis (or elephant-shrews) all belong to the Afrotheria, along with the tenrecs, to whom golden-moles are most closely related.

Divergence between golden-moles and tenrecs probably occurred about 50 million years ago, with the result that the two groups are now morphologically very distinct.
Description
Size: 
length: 12-17 cm
Weight: 85 -142 g
Golden mole fur is usually reddish brown, but is quite variable, ranging from black to pale yellow. The fur usually has an iridescent sheen of coppery gold, purple, green or bronze. They are well adapted for their subterranean lifestyle: they have large claws on their short, powerful forelegs, wedge-shaped heads, no external tail or ears, and their eyes are covered by skin. Their noses are pink and tapered with a leather pad to protect the nostrils as the moles push through the soil. They have two layers of fur, an outer, moisture proof layer of guard hairs, and an insulating woolly underlayer. They have five digits on their rear feet which are webbed to shove the soil behind them as they dig.
Ecology
Unlike true moles, golden moles do not push soil up into mounds, but rather create conspicuous ridges of soil above their tunnel systems. They create two types of burrow system: tunnels close to the surface that are used for foraging and deeper tunnels that are used for resting and raising young.

Adults are thought to be solitary and territorial, actively defending their burrow systems from other individuals. They are primarily nocturnal, possibly coming to the surface at night and after heavy rains to forage for insects. Their diet is thought to comprise predominantly earthworms and insect larvae.
Habitat
Inhabits montane forests and nearby grasslands. Also occurs in cultivated farmland and young pine plantations. They are most numerous in moist soils near watercourses and ponds.
Distribution
Endemic to South Africa. Known only from the Woodbush Forest and New Agatha Forest Reserve, in Limpopo Province.
Population Estimate
Unknown.
Population Trend
Unknown.
Status
Classified as Endangered (E B1ab (iii,iv)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats
The highly localised distribution of populations makes this species particularly vulnerable to human activities. The possibility of privatization of some of the state owned forests in which the species occurs is a potential threat, particularly if commercial forestry operations are started.
Conservation Underway
Although Gunning’s golden mole occurs in the protected De Hoek, New Agatha and Woodbush Forest Reserves, there are currently no targeted conservation measures in place for this species.
Conservation Proposed
Further research into the distribution and threats facing this elusive species are urgently required so that appropriate conservation measures may be taken.
Links
References
Bronner, G. 2008. Neamblysomus gunningi. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 September 2010.

Freitag S. and van Jaarsveld, A. S. 1997. Relative occupancy, endemism, taxonomic distinctiveness and vulnerability: prioritising regional conservation actions. Biodiversity and Conservation 6: 211–232.

IUCN/SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group (September 2010).
http://www.afrotheria.net/golden_moles/index.html

Macdonald, D.W. 2006. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Nicoll, M. E. and Rathbun, G. B. 1990. African Insectivora and elephant-shrews: An action plan for their conservation. IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree-Shrew and Elephant-Shrew Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Petter, F. 1981. Remarques sur la systématique des Chrysochloridés. Mammalia 45: 49–53.

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