Eremitalpa granti, is commonly referred to as Grant’s desert golden mole, or Grant’s golden mole. Some authorities recognize two subspecies of Eremitalpa granti: Grant’s golden moles, Eremitalpa granti granti, and Namib golden moles, Eremitalpa granti namibensis. This report follows authorities that refer more broadly to both subspecies as Eremitalpa granti, though at times some distinguishing information may be provided for each subspecies.
Eremitalpa granti was first discovered by the examination of fecal pellets belonging to Tyto alba.
Eremitalpa granti has extremely sensitive hearing and vibration detection. Morphological analysis of the middle ear has revealed a massive malleus which likely enables E. granti to detect seismic cues. Eremitalpa granti uses this seismic sensitivity to detect prey as well as to navigate when burrowing through sand. While vibrations are used over long distances to detect prey, smell is possibly used over shorter distances.
Eremitalpa granti is seldom vocal, though it does chirrup occasionally and does shriek when agitated. It also has been known to squeal and chirrup during courtship.
Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic
Perception Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Eremitalpa granti is currently listed as vulnerable according to IUCN criteria. Its greatest threat is habitat destruction and fragmentation by dune removal and diamond mining. They are also preyed upon by domestic cats and dogs.
Eremitalpa granti is protected within the Namib Desert National Park in Namibia. However, it is not currently protected in any parts of South Africa. Therefore, the establishment of the proposed Groen River National Park in South Africa is a conservation priority because it would help protect some of the limited habitat of E. granti.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Habitat fragmentation and dune removal by diamond mining poses one of the greatest threats to E. granti. Thus, conservation of the species and restrictions on mining could directly affect the jobs of some people.
Due to E. granti living in such a harsh habitat, it does not have a significant direct impact on humans. Its control of potential pest populations such as termites may be of some economic value. The long, soft, iridescent fur of E. granti may also possess some economic value.
Grant’s desert golden mole plays an important role in controlling desert invertebrate and insect populations. The control of herbaceous insects is particularly helpful for the dune grass Aristida sabulicola. Specifically, termite populations are directly affected by the foraging of E. granti in that termites constitute more than 50% of the mole’s diet. Eremitalpa granti also is an important food source for birds of prey and biodegrading invertebrates. Lastly, the disturbing of the soil via burrowing may prove beneficial for certain reptiles and invertebrates.
Eremitalpa granti feeds mainly on sand dwelling invertebrates. Termites, Psammotermes allocercus, constitute the majority of its diet. Other invertebrates it consumes are crickets, beetles, ants, moths, spiders, and mealybugs. Eremitalpa granti also eats the web-footed gecko, Pelmatogecko rangei, and legless lizards.
Animal Foods: reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )
Grant’s golden mole, Eremitalpa granti, is confined to a small section of southwestern Africa, inhabiting southwestern Cape Province and Little Namaqualand in South Africa northward to the Namib Desert in Namibia. The subspecies Eremitalpa granti granti occurs south of Helena Bay to Port Nolloth, while Eremitalpa granti namibensis is found north of the Orange River in the Namib Desert of Namibia.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Grant’s golden moles dwell in one of the driest and least productive habitats in the world. They are confined to white coastal sand dunes and does not range far inland due to the firmer, more consolidated soil. In Namaqualand they are found on coastal dunes with loose sand and karoo, while in the Namib desert it prefers dunes with scattered clumps of dune grass, Aristida sabulicola, and dry river beds with Acacia stands.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune
Eremitalpa granti is the smallest of all members in the family Chrysocholoridae, with a head and body length and mass ranging from 70 to 85 mm and 16 to 32 g, respectively. There is a degree of sexual dimorphism, with males averaging 73.5 mm and 25.3 g, and females averaging 66.8 mm and 19.8 g. Grant’s golden moles are fusiform, but dorsoventrally flattened, and they lack an external tail. Their fur is softer and generally longer than any other golden mole, although its length may vary seasonally. Hairs on the back generally measure 12 mm and are pale grayish-yellow with a silvery sheen. Hairs on the side are about 20 mm and are paler with a stronger yellow tinge in comparison to the upper hairs. The face and underside are paler to buffy white. Subadults may have a more gray coat and possess pale cheek markings. Eremitalpa granti has short and strong limbs that are medially situated beneath the body. Its foreclaws on the first, second, and third digits are extremely broad, long, and hollowed out underneath – an adaptation for digging. It is the only golden mole that possesses a well-developed fourth claw. Its hind feet are webbed and have a prominent thickened pad placed slightly in front of the heel that is not found in other species. Grant’s desert golden moles lack external eyes, the eyelids fusing at a young age with the skin covering the eyes then increasing in thickness. Their noses terminate in a hard leathery pad which aids in digging while at the same time keeps sand out of the nostrils. The skull of E. granti is distinguishable from Chrysochloris asiatica in that it is smaller, broader, has no temporal bullae, and its first premolar is single-rooted. Its skull length is less than 20.6 mm, its width ranges from 16.0 to 18.2 mm, and its dental formula is 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3.
Subspecies are generally distinguished by body size, skull dimensions, and hair length. Eremitalpa granti namibensis is often slightly smaller in size with shorter, more colored hair, and a shorter and broader skull than Eremitalpa granti granti.
Range mass: 16 to 32 g.
Range length: 70 to 85 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Due to the nocturnal surface foraging of E. granti, it is often exposed to nocturnal predators.
Very little is known about the reproduction of E. granti. It is presumably polygnous with seasonal breeding.
Mating System: polygynous
Meager reproductive records exist for E. granti and authorities disagree on certain aspects such as nest sites/chambers.
Breeding is believed to occur in October and November. The gestation period is not known specifically for E. granti, but for golden moles in general, it is believed to be 4 to 6 weeks. The sand E. granti inhabits is too loose for the construction of nesting chambers common to other moles. Thus, it is debated as to where E. granti gives birth to and raises young. Grant’s desert golden moles burrow down to depths of 50 cm where they rest during the day. Some authorities speculate they give birth in these resting burrows. However, Fielden (1991), reported the excavation of more than 100 rest sites in which no evidence of nest material, permanent burrows, chambers, or tunnel construction was found. Eremitalpa granti is believed to give birth to one to two naked, virtually helpless young. In general, golden moles are believed to wean their young after 2 to 3 months at which time the young are forced to fend for themselves.
Breeding season: October and November
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Range gestation period: 4? to 6? weeks.
Range weaning age: 2? to 3? months.
Range time to independence: 2? to 3? months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Very little is known. It is presumed that the mother provides young with food while they mature. For golden moles in general, it is believed that the mother alone rears the young and suckles them for 2 to 3 months. One source suggests that the young of E. granti are evicted from mother's area when they weigh approximately 35 to 45 g.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)
Like all other golden moles the build of these animals is similar to the moles, though they are not related, and is adapted to a life of digging. The front extremities are remodeled to digging claws; in contrast to most other species of its family they have three claws each. The tail is physically not visible, there are no auricles, the eyes are covered with fur, and the mouth is bearing a leather-like pad, which also serves for digging.
Grant's golden mole has a long silky fur, which is colored gray on cubs and sandy on older animals. With a length of 7.5 to 9 cm and a weight of 15 to 25 g it is the smallest member of its species.
In contrast to many other golden moles, Grant's golden mole rarely builds lasting tunnels. It "swims" through the sand just under or on the surface while searching for food. It is mainly a nocturnal animal, resting by day in small caves beneath sheltering plants. It is a solitary animal, with stomping grounds averaging 4.6 ha. When foraging at night, the animal will alternate between moving over the surface sand, dipping its head into the substrate (detecting low frequency vibrations through the ground), and "swimming" through the sand.