Juliana's golden-mole (Neamblysomus julianae)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderAfrosoricida
FamilyChrysochloridae
GenusNeamblysomus (4)
SizeLength: 100 mm (6)
Weight35 g (6)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (3).

Juliana's golden-mole belongs to an ancient group of mammals known as the golden-moles. The compact, streamlined body is covered with sleek fur; the upperparts of the fur are a cinnamon-brown, slightly darker towards the back and becoming paler towards the flanks (7). Anatomically, the golden-mole is highly specialised for life underground; strong forelimbs equipped with powerful pick-like claws and a leathery hardened nose pad are used to push through sandy soil whilst burrowing underground (3). Burrow systems consist of deeper permanent tunnels connecting nests, and a number of superficial foraging tunnels, which are characterised by distinctive ridges of soil along the surface (6). These animals live completely underground, they are weak diggers and are confined to sandy soils through which they 'swim' in search of prey. They lack external ears and the eyes, which are not used, are covered with a layer of skin (3). There is some controversy about the taxonomic relationship of the golden-moles to other mammals. Recent genetic evidence suggests that they belong to an ancient group of African mammals, known as the Afrotheria, that also includes elephants, hyraxes and sea cows (amongst others), rather than to the moles from which they gain their common name (4).

Juliana's golden-mole is endemic to the South African savanna. This restricted-range species has only been recorded from three localities; Pretoria (Bronberg), the Nylsvley region (Northern Province) and southwestern parts of the Kruger National Park (8).

The preferred habitat is mixed bushveld associated with sandy soils below rocky outcrops (8). Trees such as Burkea africana and Croton gratissimus are associated with these golden-moles when they occur in open and closed woodland. In rocky grassland, the black stick lily (Xerophyta retinervis) is often present, and in scrubland Englerophytum magalismontanum can be found (7).

Golden-moles have a low metabolic rate and do not maintain their body temperature, as an alternative strategy they go into a state of torpor in response to cold weather (3). Reproduction takes place throughout the year; Juliana's golden-moles have small litter sizes of only 1 or 2 young and a long period of postnatal care, population turnover rates are therefore likely to be low (6). Locating their prey by sound rather than sight (5), golden-moles feed on insects, earthworms and snails. They push through the sandy soils rather than dig (5), and feeding tunnels located just below the surface are visible as ridges along the soil (3).

Juliana's golden-mole is found in extremely restricted habitat, which is under threat from human development. Their habitat is being lost and fragmented by urban and infrastructure development; golden-moles left on fragments of remaining habitat are isolated and unable to move to new areas when threatened (7). Where residential development has occurred, pets or gardeners may kill moles and swimming pools provide a threat from drowning. An additional threat to the specialised habitat of Juliana's golden-mole is sand mining, which results in further habitat loss (7).

This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future (3). Currently two populations are protected, one in the southwestern area of the Kruger National Park (Mpumalanga), and the other in the Nylsvley Nature Reserve in South Africa's Northern Province (7). Further research into this little-known animal is urgently needed however, before effective conservation measures can be implemented.

For more information on Juliana's golden-mole and other afrotherians, visit:

Authenticated (20/1/03) by Nigel Bennett, member of the Afrotheria Specialist Group.
http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/ASG.html

  1. IUCN-SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group (August, 2002)
    http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/systematics.html#f3b
  2. Bronner, G.N. (1997) Family Chrysochloridae. In: Mills, G. and Hes, L. (Eds) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik-Winchester, Cape Town, R.S.A.
  3. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
    http://www.redlist.org
  4. Bronner, N. (2003) Pers. comm.
  5. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Bronner, G.N. (1990) New distributional records of four mammal species, with notes on their taxonomy and ecology. Koedoe, 33: 1 - 7.
  7. Insect Hunters (LIFE OF MAMMALS) (2002, d. Director Unknown).