Biologists recently made two “very rare” discoveries — and they’re not making a mountain out of a molehill.
But their discoveries are certainly making molehills out of mountains.
They found two new species of moles burrowed into the snowy peaks of eastern Turkey, according to a study published on July 18 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Such findings are very uncommon as “there are only around 6,500 mammal species that have been identified across the world,” David Bilton, one of the study authors, said in a news release from the University of Plymouth in the U.K.
“By comparison,” Bilton said, “there are around 400,000 species of beetles known, with an estimated 1-2 million on Earth.”
To conduct their analyses, biologists captured specimens from Turkey, while also using previously collected animals kept in museum collections, according to the study and release.
The biologists, who are affiliated with universities in the UK, US and Turkey, then employed state-of-the-art DNA technology to confirm the moles belonged to previously unknown species.
Differences in the animals’ physical characteristics, such as subtle variations in skull shape, were also used to support their conclusion.
The new species, named Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis, belong to a genus of 16 other moles found throughout Europe and Asia, according to the release.
Moles, adapted to live underground, generally have poor eyesight, according to the National Wildlife Federation. What they lack in vision, though, they make up for in their exceptionally sensitive snout and their large claws used for digging.
The newfound creatures are also extremely hardy, capable of surviving temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit as well as harsh winter conditions. The furry diggers could be blanketed under 6 feet of snow and still soldier on.
Biologists believe that unbeknownst to humans, the moles have been living in the mountains of Turkey for up to 3 million years. This would make the small animals far older than humans, who are believed to be only several hundred thousand years old, according to the Natural History Museum.
“We have no doubt that further investigations will reveal additional diversity, and that more new species of mole remain undiscovered in this and adjacent regions,” Bilton said in the release. “Amid increasing calls to preserve global biodiversity, if we are looking to protect species we need to know they exist in the first place.”