The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a small mole found in wet low areas of eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States, with records extending along the Atlantic coast as far as extreme southeastern Georgia. It is the only member of the tribe Condylurini and the genus Condylura.
Star-nosed moles are easily identified by the eleven pairs of pink fleshy appendages ringing their snout which are used as a touch organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, known as Eimer’s organs, with which this hamster-sized mole feels its way around.
The star-nosed mole is covered in thick blackish brown water-repellent fur and has large scaled feet and a long thick tail, which appears to function as a fat storage reserve for the spring breeding season. Adults are 15 to 20 cm in length, weigh about 55 g, and have 44 teeth. The mole's most distinctive feature is a circle of 22 mobile, pink, fleshy tentacles at the end of the snout, from which they derive their name. These are used to identify food by touch, such as worms, insects and crustaceans.
The extremely sensitive nasal tentacles are covered with minute touch receptors known as Eimer's organs. The nose is approximately one centimeter in diameter with approximately 25,000 Eimer's organs distributed on 22 appendages. Eimer's organs were first described in the European mole in 1871 by German zoologist Theodor Eimer. Other mole species also possess Eimer's organs, though they are not as specialized or numerous as in the star-nosed mole. Because the star-nosed mole is functionally blind, it had long been suspected that the snout was used to detect electrical activity in prey animals, though little, if any, empirical support has been found for this hypothesis. It appears the nasal star and dentition of this species are primarily adapted to exploit extremely small prey. A report in the journal Nature gives this animal the title of fastest-eating mammal, taking as short as 120 milliseconds (average: 227 milliseconds) to identify and consume individual food items. Its brain decides in the ultra short time of 8 ms if a prey is comestible or not. This speed is at the limit of the speed of neurons. These moles also possess the ability to smell underwater, accomplished by exhaling air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then inhaling the bubbles to carry scents back through the nose.