Two new kinds of mole unearthed in Turkey

They can survive extreme hot and cold temperatures

Talpa hakkariensis has been identified as a new species of mole. PA
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Two new types of mole have been identified living in the mountains of eastern Turkey.

Both types can survive in temperatures of up to 50°C in summer and being buried under two metres of snow in winter.

The animals, known as Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis, belong to a familiar group of subterranean, invertebrate-eating mammals found across Europe and Western Asia.

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

Decoding the DNA

Using DNA technology, the international research team from Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey, Indiana University in the US and the University of Plymouth in the UK have determined that these moles possess biological traits that separate them from other known mole species.

Prof David Bilton, the senior author from the University of Plymouth, who has previously identified close to 80 new animal species, said: “Identifying new mammal species in today's world is a rarity.

“While we have knowledge of approximately 6,500 mammal species globally, there are almost 400,000 species of beetles, with estimates suggesting millions more out there.”

Despite the similarities in appearance with other moles – a consequence of subterranean life that dictates body evolution – these new discoveries hint at the untapped reservoirs of biodiversity, including in mammal groups.

Adding to the mole family

With these new members, the tally of known Eurasian moles now stands at 18.

Each mole exhibits unique genetic and physical attributes. The research included assessing the moles' bodily structures and DNA, and even integrating data from specimens collected in the 1800s, housed in museums.

Talpa hakkariensis, which lives in the Hakkari region of south-eastern Turkey, was the standout discovery. It distinct physical form and genetic make-up identified it as a new species.

Talpa davidiana tatvanensis, discovered near Bitlis in south-eastern Turkey, has been identified as a subspecies of Talpa davidiana, a species first recognised in 1884.

The complete research titled “Notes from the Anatolian underground: Two new mole taxa from Eastern Turkey, together with a revised phylogeny of the genus Talpa,” was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Updated: August 11, 2023, 10:38 AM