Sunday, 26 February 2017

Anyone can be backyard scientist, mole study shows

Date: February 21, 2017
Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Scientific findings are awaiting discovery in your backyard. The requirement? A keen sense of observation and patience.

Vladimir Dinets, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, research assistant professor of psychology, recently completed a study on moles' behavior that proves the concept. His laboratory? A molehill-dotted city lawn in downtown Chico, California.

He has discovered that broad-footed moles, which are typically difficult to observe, feed on the ground quite often but only on cool, wet nights with fog or rain. On such nights, the leaf litter is wet and does not make much noise, which allows the moles to move around without attracting predators.

The finding was recently published in the journal Mammalia.

"This surprising find shows that there are still lots of interesting discoveries to be made literally in your backyard," Dinets said. "All it takes is being observant and patient, and knowing what to make of what you see."

Moles are one of the most common mammals in many parts of the world, including both coasts of the United States. But they are difficult to observe and, like that of many seemingly familiar animals, their behavior in the wild is almost unknown. For centuries, many believed most species of moles, including five of seven North American ones, are strictly fossorial -- meaning they spend their entire lives underground. The only exception was thought to be young animals that have to leave their mother's tunnel system to find a place where they can dig their own.

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