European mole climbing out of hill

Moles and desmans

Moles and desmans are mostly small and dark-furred animals. Though they have small eyes and poor eyesight, moles are rarely blind, despite a life spent mostly in the dark. This family of insectivorous mammals contains the moles and the shrew-moles, all of which are subterranean or semi-aquatic to varying degrees and have forelimbs and paws specialised for digging. The aquatic desmans, on the other hand, have forelimbs and paws specialised for life in the water. The 45 or so species in this family can be found across Asia, Europe and North America.

Scientific name: Talpidae

Rank: Family


Map showing the distribution of the Moles and desmans taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

Explore this group


The following habitats are found across the Moles and desmans distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

BBC News about Moles and desmans