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Class Mammalia
Order Soricomorpha
Family Talpidae


Scalopus (Hesperoscalops) sp.—Hesperoscalops Mole // Scalopus (Hesperoscalops) blancoensis—Mt. Blanco Mole // Scapanus sp.—Western Moles // Scapanus latimanus—Broad-footed Mole


Humerus of a house cat compared to the humerus of a mole

Moles are highly adapted to a fossorial life, seldom venturing from their burrow systems. They are adapted also for an insectivorous diet, feeding largely on invertebrates encountered through their burrowing activities. Arid conditions decrease the number of soil invertebrates and often also result in inhospitable soil types. As mid-continental climates became increasingly arid during the Cenozoic, moles became eradicated from mid-continental North America, separating western members of the family from those in the East. Thus presence in areas of the Southwest currently lacking moles suggests less arid conditions. That moles have not been recorded from the Rancholabrean of our region suggests other factors also may be involved.

The fossorial adaptations of moles render most skeletal elements easily recognizable; if present in a retrieved fauna, mole elements almost certainly would be recognized (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. A comparison of the humerus of a domestic cat (left) to that of a mole (adjusted to the same length) to illustrate the extreme modifications for a fossorial life that allow mole skeletal elements to be easily identified. The stout construction and enlarged projections for muscle attachment help power the digging-adapted forelimbs.


Scalopus (Hesperoscalops) sp.—Hesperoscalops MoleRegional Pleistocene distribution of Scalopus.

Currently, moles are limited to the eastern portion of the U.S. and the Far West, with modern records of moles within our region limited to relictual populations in the Big Bend region and nearby in the Panhandle of Texas.


Latest Blancan: La Union (Morgan and Lucas 2003).


Morgan and Lucas 2003.


Scalopus (Hesperoscalops) blancoensis (Dalquest 1975)—Mt. Blanco MoleRegional Pleistocene distribution of Scalopus cf. blancoensis.

Synonyms: Hesperoscalops blancoensis.

Morgan et al. (2011) reported a partial mandible of a large species of Scalopus from Caballo. The specimen is only tentatively referred because of dentition differences between the heavily worn Caballo specimen and S. blancoensis (Morgan et al. 2011).


Late Blancan: Caballo (Morgan et al. 2011: cf.).

Literature. Morgan et al. 2011.


Scapanus sp.—Western MolesRegional Pleistocene distribution of Scapanus sp.


Irvingtonian: Elsinore: Microtus/Mammuthus (Pajak et al. 1996).

Late Irvingtonian: Elsinore: Pauba Formation (Pajak et al. 1996: cf.).

Wisconsin: Zuma Creek (Jefferson 1991b).

Literature. Jefferson 1991b; Pajak et al. 1996.


Scapanus latimanus (Bachman 1842)—Broad-footed MoleRegional Pleistocene distribution of Scapanus latimanus


?Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Emery Borrow Pit (Jefferson 1991b>.

Rancholabrean: Cool Water Coal Gasification Solid Waste Site (Jefferson 1991b).

Sangamon: Newport Bay Mesa (Jefferson 1991b).

Wisconsin: Glen Abbey (Majors 1993).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Diamond Valley (Springer et al. 2009); Rancho La Brea (Akersten et al. 1979).

Literature. Akersten et al. 1979); 1991b; Majors 1993; Springer et al. 2009.


Scapanus malatinus (Bachman 1842)—Ancestral Broad-footed MoleRegional Pleistocene distribution of Scapanus malatinus


Irvingtonian: Anza-Borrego (Hutchison 1987).

Literature. Hutchison 1987.


Last Update: 22 Apr 2014