Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lesser Mole Rats in Serbia

The Lesser Mole Rat Nanospalax leucodon is one of Europe's most mysterious mammals. It is not related to true moles. But this blind, subterranean animal is under threat. It is often regarded as an agricultural pest and its steppe and grassland habitat has for centuries been ploughed up and/or planted with forest. Today it is mainly restricted to lowlands in Hungary, Romania and Serbia. Once again, Eastern Europe is the stronghold of a rare European species. This photo (taken last week) shows a fresh earth-mound (with a mobile phone for size comparison) in the Subotica Sandlands, northern Serbia. These mounds, created when the mole rats throw up earth after digging their tunnels, can be 4 times bigger than mole-hills. Such mounds often run in lines but are also sometimes in clusters. A few days later we found many such mounds at Deliblato Sands a few hours to the south. It seems to be common in that area and indeed lowland Serbia may well be Europe's stronghold for this endangered species.

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