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Research team finds lost species from 100 years ago in the majestic dunes of South Africa

Research efforts over the years finally bore fruit as De Winton’s golden mole was confirmed to be surviving in Africa.

Research team finds lost species from 100 years ago in the majestic dunes of South Africa
Cover Image Source: YouTube | The Endangered Wildlife Trust

Humans have not exactly been benevolent to Earth as a whole. Civilization has hurt other species to garner more gains for themselves. As a result, thousands of species have disappeared from the planet. This has caused huge damage to the ecosystem, leading to massive efforts from all sides towards its protection and conservation. Recently, the Endangered Wildlife Trust as well as a diligent dog rediscovered an animal that was thought to have been lost 100 years ago, per Bored Panda. This is a positive indication for all the other species that have disappeared in the past from the face of the earth.

Image Source: re:wild/JP Le Roux
Image Source: re:wild/JP Le Roux

The rediscovered animal is a shimmering mole that swims through sand. Its name is De Winton’s golden mole, whose last reported sighting was in 1936. The species is small in size and primarily eats insects. The reason behind its name is its pearl-like, iridescent fur. The color of the fur is mainly because of the oil secreted by their fur, which makes it easy for them to swim through the sand. The team had huge difficulty in locating the species because of their hypersensitive hearing, which aided them in detecting vibration from above the ground. Every time researchers came close to them, they ran away.



 

The team has again found the species on the beaches on the northwest coast of South Africa. EWT, in their endeavor to find the species, collaborated with experts from the University of Pretoria. Their first course of action in this effort was to collect sample soil from the area to check for mole DNA. After it was confirmed that the mole lived there, the team sent a scent-detection border collie to sniff out the creatures.



 

Cobus Theron, a senior conservation manager for EWT expressed pride at their achievement. He said, “Though many people doubted that De Winton’s golden mole was still out there, I had good faith that the species had not yet gone extinct. I was convinced it would just take the right detection method, the proper timing and a team passionate about finding it. I think it’s just fantastic that in 2023 we can still rediscover species." He further added that in a world where conservation efforts are mostly filled with disappointment, this story is like a beacon of light.



 

The team has been able to recover four golden moles, including De Winton’s mole. It was initially a very hard endeavor to distinguish between the various moles, as genetically they were quite similar. In order to confirm whether the mole they found was De Winton’s golden mole, they had to make a match with another specimen placed in a Cape Town museum. Cobus explained, “Now not only have we solved the riddle, but we have tapped into this eDNA frontier where there is a huge amount of opportunity not only for moles but for other lost or imperiled species.”



 

Search for Lost Species, Re: wild also took part in the search. Christina Biggs, who works as a manager for this organization, also expressed pride in the results. She said, “The search for De Winton’s golden mole was not easy by any means and it really speaks to how persistent, thorough and resourceful the EWT team was in the field. They left no sandhill unturned and now it’s possible to protect the areas where these threatened and rare moles live. The successful use of the eDNA technique is now a case study on how such forward-thinking technologies can be utilized to find other lost species.”

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