The ninth in a series of AskNature Nuggets.
Ep. 9: How Does Nature Sense?
Filmed in Portland at the 2012 Biomimicry Education Summit, let Adelheid Fischer --Biomimicry Fellow and Coordinator of InnovationSpace at Arizona State University-- explain how she finds inspiration in the stunning good looks of the star-nosed mole.
Thank you to YouTube user kiwanoMLA for their Creative Commons licensed footage of the young star-nosed moles used in this video:
"My favorite animal is the star-nosed mole and what I love about this animal is that is has these two giant front paws that look like catcher’s mitts and it has very, very squinty little eyes. It’s about the size of a baked potato, so it fits very neatly into the palm of your hand.
But what really captures peoples’ imaginations is its nose itself. It looks like a sea anemone; tt looks like a starfish. The New York Times described it as “raw hamburger being put through a meat grinder.”
It does a couple of things that are pretty amazing. Most people think it uses that sea anemone thing on its nose as a way to smell the world, which they’ve discovered is not the case. It actually is this touch-sensing organ. The other really cool thing about it is recently it’s been shown that it’s the only mammal to actually be able to smell underwater. What it does is it sends out these bubbles and inhales at lightening speeds. The bubbles catch odor molecules underwater and as the animal inhales, it is able to sense food in its environment underwater. (Note: follow this link to see this behavior in action: youtu.be/7VD294VYAVg )
Most people look at adaptations that organisms make to their environments as an opportunity for getting inspiration to solve their own problems. I think sometimes what we forget is that a lot of these organisms provide us with opportunities for wonder that’s just as important as solving some of our critical challenges.
So can we learn some amazing things from the sensory apparatus of the star nosed mole’s nose? Probably… or undoubtedly. But at the same time, the fact that this tiny, potato sized animal has developed this extraordinary way of navigating its world, is just a cause for wonder and a cause for celebration. And it’s worth it just for that."
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