Notoryctidae – Marsupial moles

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

It represents one of the most intriguing yet least understood groups within the marsupial lineage. This family is characterized by two known species: the northern marsupial mole (Notoryctes caurinus) and the southern marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), both of which are highly specialized for a subterranean lifestyle in the arid and semi-arid regions of inner Australia.

Marsupial moles exhibit several remarkable adaptations that facilitate their life beneath the surface. One of the most striking features of these animals is their reduced eyes, which are vestigial and covered by skin and fur. This adaptation is a consequence of their almost entirely subterranean existence, where vision is unnecessary. Instead of relying on sight, marsupial moles depend on their highly developed sense of touch and possibly hearing, navigating through their environment with sensitive whiskers and tiny, fur-covered ear openings that protect against soil intrusion.

The body of a marsupial mole is a testament to its digging prowess. With a torpedo-shaped body, powerful forelimbs equipped with large, spade-like claws, and a leathery shield across the nose to aid in moving soil, these animals are perfectly adapted to “swim” through the sand. Their unique locomotion and silky, golden fur that repels dirt and allows easy movement through tight spaces make them efficient burrowers.

Marsupial moles lead a largely solitary and cryptic lifestyle, surfacing only rarely, such as when heavy rains flood their burrows. Their diet primarily consists of insects and larvae, which they hunt and consume underground. Interestingly, after passing through an area, marsupial moles backfill their tunnels, erasing any evidence of their presence and making them incredibly difficult to study or even detect.