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Scientists identify two new types of mole in the mountains of eastern Turkey that can live in 50C temperatures and survive being buried under six foot of snow


Scientists identify two new types of mole in the mountains of eastern Turkey that can live in 50C temperatures and survive being buried under six foot of snow

  • The new moles are named Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis
  • They belong to a group of mammals usually found across Europe and West Asia 

Scientists have identified two types of mole which they believe have been living undiscovered in the mountains of eastern Turkey.

The new mole, named Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis, belong to a familiar group of subterranean, invertebrate-eating mammals found across Europe and Western Asia

While only one species, Talpa europaea, is found in Britain, further east there are a number of different moles, many of which have very small geographical ranges. 

The researchers, using cutting edge DNA technology, have confirmed the new animals are biologically distinct from other moles. 

Both inhabit mountainous regions in eastern Turkey and are able to survive in temperatures of up to 50C in summer and being buried under two metres (about 6ft) of snow in winter. 

The study was conducted by researchers from Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey, Indiana University in the US and the University of Plymouth. Senior author Professor David Bilton, from the University of Plymouth, has previously been responsible for identifying almost 80 new species of animals. 

The new mole, named: Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis; belong to a familiar group of subterranean, invertebrate-eating mammals found across Europe and Western Asia

The study was conducted by researchers from Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey, Indiana University in the US and the University of Plymouth (Pictured: The mountains of the Hakkari region of southeastern Turkey)

The study was conducted by researchers from Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey, Indiana University in the US and the University of Plymouth (Pictured: The mountains of the Hakkari region of southeastern Turkey)

‘It is very rare to find new species of mammals today,’ he said. ‘There are only around 6,500 mammal species that have been identified across the world and, by comparison, there are around 400,000 species of beetles known, with an estimated one to two million on Earth. 

‘Superficially, the new moles we have identified in this study appear similar to other species, since living underground imposes serious constraints on the evolution of body size and shape – there are a limited number of options available for moles really. 

‘Our study highlights how, in such circumstances, we can underestimate the true nature of biodiversity, even in groups like mammals, where most people would assume we know all the species with which we share the planet.’ 

The discoveries mean that the number of known Eurasian moles has been raised from 16 to 18, and each have their own distinct genetic and physical characteristics.

To identify their latest finds, the researchers studied the size and shape of various bodily structures, using advanced mathematical analyses, which also allowed them to include specimens collected in the 19th century that are still available in museum collections. 

A complimentary analysis of the moles’ DNA, and a detailed comparison with known species, then confirmed their distinctiveness. As a result, Talpa hakkariensis – found in the Hakkari region of southeastern Turkey – was identified as a new species of mole, highly distinctive in terms of both its morphology and DNA. 

Talpa davidiana tatvanensis – found near Bitlis, also in south-eastern Turkey – was also identified as being morphologically distinct but has been classified as a subspecies of Talpa davidiana. Talpa davidiana was first identified in 1884. 

The study, Notes from the Anatolian underground: Two new mole taxa from Eastern Turkey, together with a revised phylogeny of the genus Talpa, is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 



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