Both genus members are on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction

The genus Cryptochloris, comprising two extant species – De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni) and Van Zyl’s golden mole (Cryptochloris zyli), represents an intriguing and ancient lineage of mammals primarily adapted to a subterranean lifestyle. These creatures are part of the golden mole family, Chrysochloridae, a group known for their specialized adaptations to life underground. De Winton’s golden mole is currently listed as Critically Endangered and is feared to be on the brink of extinction, if not already extinct, while Van Zyl’s golden mole holds the status of Endangered, reflecting the precarious situation these species face in the wild.

Cryptochloris species exhibit several fascinating morphological and physiological adaptations that enable them to thrive in their niche habitats. They possess shiny coats of dense fur, which serve multiple functions, including protection against the abrasive nature of the soil and insulation against temperature fluctuations in their underground environments. The appearance of Cryptochloris species is formless and streamlined, a testament to their evolutionary optimization for burrowing and life below the surface. This streamlined body shape minimizes resistance as they move through the soil, allowing for efficient locomotion in their underground world.

One of the most remarkable features of these golden moles is their sensory adaptations. Lacking visible eyes and ears, these species are effectively blind. Their small eyes are completely covered by skin, and their ear openings are concealed within their fur. This might seem like a disadvantage, but vision is of little use in their dark, underground habitats. Instead, Cryptochloris species rely heavily on other senses, particularly touch and hearing, to navigate, communicate, and hunt. Their sensitive whiskers and specialized fur play crucial roles in detecting vibrations and airflow changes in their environment, allowing them to sense the presence of prey and predators alike.