A blind mole believed to be extinct turned up on a beach in South Africa for the first time in almost 90 years after not having been seen since 1936, a study published last week revealed.
The De Winton’s golden mole was spotted on the Cape Town shore of South Africa by researchers, according to the Associated Press. The blind mole is small and gold, possessing the ability to “swim” through sand dunes with “super-hearing powers.”
Traces of the mole’s tunnels were found in 2021 by sniffer dogs, leading to the eventual discovery of the creature, according to the outlet. However, researchers took some time to confirm the exact species of mole among 21 possibilities before declaring that it was a De Winton’s.
“It was a very exciting project with many challenges,” Ester Matthews, a senior field officer with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, said. “Luckily, we had a fantastic team full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas, which is exactly what you need when you have to survey up to 18 kilometers (11 miles) of dune habitat in one day.”
Sand-swimming golden mole bros we are finally back pic.twitter.com/Ce2FKsaXU8
— Populism Updates (@PopulismUpdates) December 2, 2023
Environmental DNA samples were extracted to determine the mole’s species before it was determined to be a match, the outlet reported. Leftover skin cells, hair and bodily excretions helped scientists reach this conclusion, but they had to wait until 2022 before a De Winton’s DNA sample was available for comparison. (RELATED: Bison Are Being Introduced Into Russian Arctic To Replace Species That Went Extinct 4,000 Years Ago)
“We had high hopes, but we also had our hopes crushed by a few people,” researcher Samantha Mynhardt told the Associated Press. “One De Winton’s expert told us, ‘you’re not going to find that mole. It’s extinct.’”
De Winton’s golden mole was listed among others as a “most wanted lost species” by a wild conservation group, according to the outlet. Two De Winton’s golden moles have been confirmed and photographed in Port Nolan since, Mynhardt said.