One of the most intriguing stars in the universe is right here on Earth: the eleven pairs of pink fleshy appendages ringing the snout of the star-nosed mole. From its appearance and location, one would think this star might be a supersensitive olfactory organ, helping the nearly blind mole negotiate its subterranean environment, or an extra hand for grasping prey or manipulating objects. Some researchers have hypothesized that the star detects electric fields, thus acting as a kind of antenna. But in reality, the star is an extraordinary touch organ with more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, called Eimer’s organs, with which this hamster-sized mole feels its way around.
The Eimer’s organs are arranged in a honeycombed pattern of tiny epidermal “domes,” each sensitive to the slightest touch. Although the star is less than half an inch across, its surface is supplied with more than 100,000 large nerve fibers. By comparison, the touch receptors in the human hand are equipped with only about 17,000 of these fibers. Imagine having six times the sensitivity of your entire hand concentrated in a single fingertip.
a star is born