Take a moment to close your eyes and go for a short walk around the room, notice how reliant you become on your sense of touch. Now imagine living in the darkness underground, how much better would your sense of touch need to be? Enter the star-nosed mole, so called for its unusual feeler-adorned nose (this electron micrograph shows four of the 22 tentacle-like feelers). The nose is only one centimetre across but is covered with tens of thousands of highly sensitive, domed, touch organs called Eimer's organs. A pinhead could touch 600 of these at once, that’s fifteen times more sensitive than the human hand. Using the star-nosed mole as a model organism, scientists can get one step closer to discovering the mechanisms of touch and an understanding of sensory loss in humans.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.