Notoryctemorphia – Marsupial moles

Functionally blind and without external ears, they "swim" through the soil, leaving no permanent burrow

The marsupial moles of Australia, comprising the northern marsupial mole (Notoryctes caurinus) and the southern marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), are enigmatic creatures that embody the art of cryptic survival in one of the Earth’s harshest environments. These elusive beings are almost mythical in their existence, living a subterranean lifestyle beneath the arid and unforgiving sands of Australia’s interior deserts.

Their adaptation to life underground is so complete that traditional senses like sight have been rendered obsolete; their eyes, over countless millennia, have regressed to vestigial remnants. In place of vision, they have honed other senses to navigate the darkness of their sandy realm. Though they lack functional ears, the tiny fur-covered holes on the sides of their heads are sensitive to vibrations, allowing them to detect the movement of prey and the subtle shifts of the Earth around them.

The marsupial moles’ fur is a silky yellow-brown, a coloration that camouflages them against the desert sands. Their forepaws have evolved into powerful digging tools, with two large, spade-like claws on each, making them supremely adapted for a life spent mostly underground. The intriguing behavior of constantly backfilling their tunnels as they move through the sand both aids in maintaining the structural integrity of their burrows and shields them from predators and the scorching heat of the sun.

These marsupials are so reclusive and their habitat so inhospitable that even the most dedicated scientists have found studying them a significant challenge. As a result, the marsupial moles are shrouded in mystery, with basic aspects of their biology, ecology, and population status largely unknown. Assumptions of their endangerment are based on the infrequency of sightings and the impacts of habitat disruption caused by human activities and introduced predators. However, the true state of their populations remains a matter of educated conjecture rather than documented fact.