As its common name suggests, the giant golden mole (Chrysospalax trevelyani), at 23 centimetres in length, is by far the largest of the golden mole species (3). Yet contrary to its name, the giant golden mole is in fact a dark, glossy brown (4). The word ‘golden’ comes from the family name Chrysochloridae (derived from Greek, meaning green-gold), which refers to the iridescent sheen of the coat (2).
Like other golden mole species, the giant golden mole is well adapted to its subterranean lifestyle. It possesses robust claws on its forelimbs for digging underground, whilst its hind limbs bear five webbed digits for shovelling the loose soil backwards. The lack of external ears or tail creates a more compact, streamlined body for moving underground. In addition, the giant golden mole has a wedge-shaped head and a leather pad on its nose, which protects its nostrils as it pushes through the soil (5). Most strikingly, all golden moles lack external eyes (5), likely to be a result of their subterranean lifestyle.
With a longer, coarser coat than other golden mole species, the giant golden mole has woolly underfur which helps to keep it insulated, and guard hairs which repel moisture (2) (6). The dark and glossy upperparts give way to paler, yellowish underparts, and on its head are small, lighter coloured patches, where eyes and ears would typically have been situated (6).
Vocalisations are seldom used by the giant golden mole, although adults may make soft puffing and chirping sounds, especially during courtship, and young have been heard squeaking when alarmed (3).
- Head-body length: 20.8 - 23.5 cm (2)
- 410 - 500 g (2)